Small Problem–What to Do Next?

I just finished putting the finishing touches on the rough draft of my sci-fi/steampunk novel Terraviathan. I had a 7 page document full of all the names I needed to implement into manuscript. I just finished doing that. Man my hands hurt from typing ctrl+b to unbold all my placeholder names.

Of course now that I finished, I realize I have a small problem. Terraviathan is a sequel. While I tried to make it as standalone-y as possible, it helps a lot if you’ve read The Exile’s Violin. And this is where things get complicated. The Exile’s Violin is unpublished. It won’t stay that way forever, but I don’t think I’d be able to get this book accepted anywhere without TEV getting accepted first. Now if a publisher does show interest in TEV, I can tell them I have a sequel ready to go, but until that happens, Terraviathan is forced to sit on the sidelines.

So what do I do next? I have outlines for two more novels ready to go. Remember The Swarm? Yeah, I have that one. I also have an outline for a novel set in the same universe as “Runner.” It’s called The Price of Loyalty and it’s straight up sci-fi/borderline space opera. I want to work on it, but my brain’s a little worn out right now. So here’s what I think I’m going to do. I’m going to write some short stories for a couple of weeks; there are publications and anthologies out there I want to submit to. Then when I’ve had a little bit of time to decompress, I’ll start work on The Price of Loyalty. The funny thing is, I already have 6 chapters finished. I’ll probably rewrite most of them, but it won’t be like starting from absolute scratch.

I also have a vague, vague idea for a 3rd book in the TEV/Terraviathan universe set after Terraviathan. That’s always on the table. I also started thinking about a spin-off standalone novel featuring some of the characters from Terraviathan. It’d be more military oriented. That could be fun too. The possibilities are endless!

I’m interested to know what other writers do once they finish working on a novel? It’s in that phase where it needs to sit and marinate before any revisions are made. What do you work on next? Dive right into another novel? Short stories? Or do you just take some time off from writing altogether? I want to know.

Current Project: None!

Deadline: None!

Word count: 0

Terraviathan is Born!

I did it! Last night I finished the first (very) rough draft of my new science fiction/steampunk novel Terraviathan. I spent almost all of yesterday writing the last two chapters. I only took two breaks: one to watch the end of the Arizona game and one after finishing the penultimate chapter. My brain was just too tired. I went upstairs to play some videogames, but my brain couldn’t handle Killzone 3, so I played Donkey Kong Country Returns instead.

Sidebar: DKCR is a joy. The controls are a little different from the SNES iterations of Donkey Kong, but it’s still a joy to play. Definitely helped me unwind and prepare for the last writing sprint of the night.

It’s almost like giving birth. Okay not really. I’ve never experienced, and never will (being a male) experience the process of childbirth. But maybe the comparison works. You spend all this time putting all your blood, sweat, and tears into the process and then all of a sudden it’s done. There’s your manuscript screaming and kicking on its own in the big wide world. Welcome baby Terraviathan into the world, weighing in at 112k. Now comes the process of actually raising it and making sure it grows up properly so I can send it off to college–I submit it places.

I plan on spending most of today going through the thing and cleaning it up a bit. First thing on my list: come up with names for people and places. I leave notes to myself in all my manuscripts and highlight things with certain colors. I need to go through and address all the little highlighted parts.

But the important thing is it’s done. Well that’s kind of a lie, but one I’ll gladly tell myself. The editing and revising process can be just as long and arduous as the writing process. I’ll be ready for it.

Project: Terraviathan

Deadline: N/A (maybe 5/1/11)

Word count: 15,835 (since 3/24)

Growing Dread: Biopunk Visions

Look what arrived in the mail today.

I mentioned how my short story, “Neurolution,” is included in Growing Dread. Well the copies I ordered arrived today! They look great, and they feel even better in my hands. I hope I never grow tired of this feeling. It’s incredible. I’m going over to my parents’ house tonight, so I’ll give them their copy. Hope they enjoy reading my story (and the others) as I enjoyed writing it. If anyone else ordered it, please rate the collection on Amazon and help spread the word.

Onto other things: I’m making good progress on Terraviathan (formerly The Exile’s Violin 2). I wasn’t sure if I liked my improvised title yesterday, but it’s grown on me today. So what have I written so far in Fictionland? I finished the covert commando insertion and moved on to an ambush and a gunfight. Now I just finished writing the first scene with the titular Terraviathan.

That was a fun little scene. I’m happy with it and I think the rest of the book is going to go quickly. The climax is about a chapter away, and after that it’ll be time to start filling in names and places. The project’s definitely going to be over 100k (at least before some cuts). I hope I can keep it as close to 100k as possible. Then I got to find some people to read the damn thing. I don’t envy them. This is a rough draft after all. I mean, I hope it’s polished and…good, but I won’t know until I get some feedback.

Project: Terraviathan (formerly The Exile’s Violin 2)

Deadline: N/A (maybe 5/1/11)

Word count: 6,692 (since 3/23)

 

Commandos, Airships, & Recon Missions in Enemy Territory

No big deal. But seriously, these couple of chapters have been the most fun to write. My two main characters just met up with an elite commando unit that uses an experimental airship for their missions. Right now they’re taking the two main characters with them on a covert recon mission into a continent embroiled in a civil war. Like I said, no big deal.

Writing the commandos is really fun. There’s only five of them, but they’re not like regular soldiers. Since they’re part of an experimental division, they’re a little looser and crazier than the average troops. That fits perfectly with one of the main character’s personality. The other one? Not so much. He’ll just have to deal with it.

There have been multiple gun battles in the book so far, but the next few chapters are going to blow all those out of the water. The very last 1/3 of the book (which I’m on now) is the part I’ve been waiting to get to the whole time. It’s where all my big ideas are coming out and the tech gets a little more fantastic and the world gets a little more weird. I really, really hope I’ll be able to finish off this rough draft by the end of the week. No holding my breath too hard on that though.

I’ve gotten a lot accomplished since my last writing update. I’ve gone over my proposed 80,000 word goal, but it’s not a big deal. I’ll be pleased if I finish the unedited rough draft under 100,000. Plus I think I might have a title! Or at least a better working one than The Exile’s Violin 2. Let’s take a look at those metrics!

Project: The Exile’s Violin 2 (working title) potentially, Terraviathan

Deadline: N/A (maybe 5/1/11)

Word count: 28,682 (since 3/17)

 

The Bronze Age of Fantasy Response

Have you read the post on Jeffrey W. Dern’s website about the state of fantasy fiction? Well, I recommend you read it, then come back for my thoughts. This all started after Patrick Rothfuss made some comments about how plays with established fantasy tropes at one of his book signings. This led Dern to think about the state of fantasy fiction as a whole: “After some reflection, I realized why that sounded familiar: it’s the same tactic [playing with tropes] that comic book writers of the Bronze Age used. Which, naturally, led me to wonder whether or not we are living in the Bronze Age of fantasy fiction.”

While Dern raises some interesting points, the fact that he calls the beginnings of modern fantasy “the Golden Age” just because that’s the established nomenclature for talking about comics. The problem with this type of classification is that it attaches worth to the different “ages.” Why do the progenitors of modern fantasy get the “golden” descriptor just because they came first? And why do the ages go down in worth as time goes on? Who dictates these things?

There are different eras and ages in fantasy fiction. Clearly, a novel written in 1950 is going to be different than a novel written in 2011. Why does one get to belong to a golden age while the other belongs to Dern’s hypothetical Bronze Age? I contend that the quality in fantasy fiction has grown since the birth of modern fantasy and science fiction.

In Dern’s own words: “As with the Bronze Age of comics, fantasy fiction’s current crop are dark, sexy, violent, and real. Authors such as George R.R. MartinTerry Goodkind,Jacqueline CareyBrandon Sanderson, and Patrick Rothfuss captivate us with new and original stories of heroes we care about and worlds we wish we lived in (or are glad we don’t).” Dern goes on to say that essentially the current crop of fantasy fiction is representing the zeitgeist of the times.

I totally agree with that. No writer writes in a vacuum. Every writer is affected by writers that came before them and by events going on in the world around them. Again this is where I agree that there are distinct eras of genre fiction. I guess I’m just nitpicking the fact that just because comics got classified one way that we should just transplant that classification system to fantasy fiction.

I agree with a lot of what Dern says. Are we getting to a point where the “flavor” of genre fiction is going to change? I can see that happening soon–zombies are played out. Steampunk is extremely pervasive right now; it’s time in the spotlight could be coming to an end. Really if we could just find a different way to name the eras, I’d be fine. Even if calling something a “Golden Age” is just words, with no value attached to them, it still doesn’t work. The words golden, silver, and bronze all have connotations surrounding them. Hell, we could just call the Golden Age of Fantasy — Era A. Right now we could be in Era Q or whatever, or some other words that don’t have connotations of quality surrounding them.

Why Word Count Isn’t Always the Best Method

As you may have noticed, I use a nifty (read: simple) little bit of html in my posts to provide a graphic that shows my word count progress. However, word count isn’t always the best way to keep track of your progress.

For short stories–or works without chapters–word count is a perfect way to keep track of your progress. Say you’re writing a short story for submission and the publisher/zine/whatever only accepts stories up to 4,000 words. You might not want to write exactly 4,000 words, but keeping track of your word count is a hassle-free way to keep yourself on track.

As I’ve found out working on this second novel, word count doesn’t always work. I set a total word count goal for myself: 80,000. A fairly standard novel length, maybe a little longer than standard. Some people like 75,000. Anyway, I just hit 61,000 today (and I’m still going). According to my spreadsheet I’m a little over 76% complete with my novel. Wow! I’m over 3/4 of the way there! Not quite.

I may be 3/4 of the way to my arbitrarily chosen goal, but when it comes to completing the actual story, I’m not at that point yet. I’ve started keeping track of my chapter progress along with my word count. Right now I’m on chapter 19 out of an outlined 28–or 67% completion. Not quite as impressive isn’t it?

Both keeping track of chapters and word counts are useful tools in measuring progress. I just have to remember that word count isn’t everything. I’ll keep posting my little graphic though, because I like seeing it go up. And even if it is a little inflated, it still represents progress. Honestly, I’ll be happy as long as the first draft of this novel is shorter than the first draft of my previous one. If I can keep it under 100,000 words, I’ll be ecstatic.

To all of you celebrating St. Patrick’s Day: have fun, stay safe, make sure to stay hydrated to avoid hangovers. As for me, I’ll be staying in and plugging away on The Exile’s Violin 2. Here’s today’s word count. (I’ll update it again later tonight.)

Oh yeah! Before I forget: There’s a reading/launch event for Growing Dread: Biopunk Visions at Neptune Coffee (85th and Greenwood, Seattle) from 8-10 pm. Go if you can! I can’t ’cause I’m in the wrong state. Right coast, wrong state. You can pre-order the anthology here. You can also read an excerpt from one of the stories, “Necrosis,” here.

Project: The Exile’s Violin 2 (working title)

Deadline: N/A (maybe 5/1/11)

Daily word count: 3,399 (as of 6 PM PST)

“Dark” Scenes are Easier to Write

My WIP novel is a thing. Yessir. It’s coming right along. Today I worked on a pretty pivotal scene where the main character has to get some information from a crooked cop who’d just sold her out. She uses some questionable methods that her best friend and accomplice doesn’t approve of. It creates tension between the two characters, and their relationship is already full of drama and baggage.

Some scenes and chapters are easier to write; I get that. But why is it the darker, the more disturbing the scene the easier it is to write for me? I’m not sure I want to examine the implications of what that means about me as a person. This “ease” with which dark scenes come to me has happened before. It happened during certain short stories, and now it happened again while working on The Exile’s Violin 2. I’m not complaining because it means I got a lot written today. Hopefully the rest of the project goes this smoothly.

What about you all? Are there certain scenes or types of scenes that just come easily to you? How do you map out these kinds of things ahead of time–if at all?

Project: The Exile’s Violin 2

Deadline: N/A (maybe 5/1/11)

Daily word count: 4,897 (today) & 2,382 (yesterday)

 

The Second Half

I hit a major milestone this week. I passed the halfway mark on the first rough draft of my manuscript. As of today (Monday) progress is sitting pretty at 58%. I have a nifty spreadsheet that keeps track of everything for me. This is only the rough draft though. I know that any words I type will be subjected to rigorous edits and possibly cuts further down the line. I’m excited for the next few chapters because the action, the steampunk elements, and the just overall “weird” faction all get ratcheted up. It just feels good to be working on “the second half.”

Over the weekend I had the displeasure of witnessing what I can only describe as a Twitter fight. Maybe this is what living in the digital age is all about? Either way it was annoying to see anywhere from two to four grown adults arguing with each other via Twitter. Twitter is probably the worst place to have an argument/disagreement. 140 characters per tweet? Public tweets that clog your followers’ feeds? You can be open and honest with someone in a private form of communication–Twitter direct messages, FB messages, emails, phone calls, even an old fashioned letter. Don’t clog the Twitterverse with squabblings that nobody else wants to see. It made me feel uncomfortable and voyeuristic, and it’s not something I’d really want to experience again.

Anyway that’s enough of that. Back to the writing progress. I didn’t get any work done over the weekend, but oh well. That’s life sometimes. My girlfriend is having a weird allergic reaction right now, so we’re going to the doctor this afternoon. Today probably won’t be a stellar word count day.

Update: Apparently today went better than I thought it would. I hit over 3,000 words for my daily total. The word count section has been updated to reflect this. How exciting!

Project: The Exile’s Violin 2 (working title)

Deadline: N/A (Maybe May 1, 2011)

Daily word count: 14,986 (since 3/7)

Word count: 49,416

 

In Situ Update and Writing Updates

I know this isn’t a lot to go on, but I just saw this on Dagan Books: In Situ has a planned publication date–May 15, 2011. I know that’s the planned date, but I can’t help but be excited. That’s 5 days before my birthday. Having a story included in this anthology, best present or best present, am I right?

I’ve been working a lot on The Exile’s Violin 2. I’m really proud of myself for sticking to my plan. I have a daily word goal (it’s really low compared to some other writers’ goals) and for over the past two weeks, I’ve met or exceeded my goal. Just today I’m on pace to probably break 3,000 words. For me that’s tremendous right now. I can’t wait until I get to some of the later chapters. There’s action in the beginning, but I think what I have planned really turns it up to 11. It’s steampunk, weird, sci-fi all at the same time.

Project: The Exile’s Violin 2 (working title)

Deadline: N/A (maybe 5/1/11)

Word Count: 34,430 (will go up before today’s over)

Growing Dread: Biopunk Visions Release Date

Growing Dread: Biopunk Visions has an official release date! March 22, 2011. Mark your calendars people. But even better than that, you have the ability to pre-order the book at Timid Pirate’s website. I can’t wait to get my hands on this book, not just because my story “Neurolution” is in it. I think the other stories will be really good too.

I know nothing about the other stories, but judging by the names alone, the ones I’m most looking forward to reading are: “God Bloom,” “Necrosis,” and “The Aesthetic Engine.” Those three just sound cool. Though I’m sure that the other stories will be just as cool too.

Help support a small press! Order the book!