Is it Cheating?

On Thursday a huge black out hit all of San Diego, parts of Orange County, northern Baja California, parts of Arizona, and even New Mexico. Left without power and fading sunlight, my girlfriend decided to take a nap. Before she fell asleep she suggested I write…the old fashioned way. I was reluctant because I was in the middle of working on a novel outline and it was saved on my computer. I wouldn’t be able to make concrete progress without the files open in front of me. She then suggested I write a short story, but I told her I was going to read instead.

So I plopped down on the couch and dove into Broken Time Blues, which is pretty awesome by the way. I made it through two stories and the title of a third when inspiration hit me. A collection of images I’d had in my mind for a long time all came together. I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to write a story about a robot neighborhood in 1920s Manhattan and anti-robot riots. I put down the book and quickly began outlining my story.

As I was doing that and all the next day a nagging feeling kept eating at me. My idea for a story only came after reading some from Broken Time Blues. Did that mean my idea wasn’t my own? I hadn’t read any stories so far in that collection that dealt with robots and riots, so I definitely wasn’t stealing. But it felt like I was borrowing inspiration or something. Is this cheating somehow? Is it cheating if reading a story or book inspires you to want to write something of your own?

I don’t have an answer. I want to hear from other writers if they’ve ever had something like this happen before.

When Do You Abandon a Manuscript? Also, Updates

Every writer’s experienced this at some point: you’re in the middle of a manuscript, let’s say about the halfway point, and your enthusiasm for the project begins to slip. You start questioning every little bit of plot and character development. You run your hands through your hair asking, “Why would anyone ever want to read this? This is the worst book in the history of words!” And then a dark slips through the cracks of your flagging self-confidence: what if you just gave up and worked on something else?

Tons of people will tell you that success in the field of writing comes from hard work and perseverance. You can’t write a novel unless you sit your butt in a chair (or stand if you feel like it) and write. That’s great advice, but where do you draw the line between just hitting a speedbump and legitimately needing to write something else. When do you abandon a manuscript?

Right now I’m in the middle of writing a sci-fi book. I’m at about 50,000 words give or take, and my goal’s about 80,000. So I’m definitely over halfway and some days getting words on the page is a slog–even with my incredibly detailed 40,000 word outline. (Yes, I’m a huge plotter) I can honestly say I’ve thought about giving this one up. But I haven’t yet. I tried a little bit of that perseverin’ thang and made some progress. That was enough for me to give up the notions of quitting.  However quitting (maybe just temporarily) could be acceptable if you’ve really tried. You forced yourself to make progress, and it still isn’t coming any easier. That might be a sign it’s time to take a break.

I know that’s not a great answer but that’s the only one you’re getting out of me! Time for other things. I got another short story accepted! My story “Strike Breakers” is going to appear in the 20,001: A Steampunk Odyssey anthology by Kindling Press. This is my 3rd short story acceptance for 2011 and my 5th overall. I try not to get jealous when I see other writers with dozens of short story credits to their name, but short stories really aren’t what I focus on. Still it feels good, really good, when you get a win like this.

Time for some word count updates

Project Name: The Price of Loyalty

Deadline: N/A

Word Count: 51,791

 

When Inspiration Strikes

What do you do when inspiration strikes, when your muse speaks to you? (Sidebar: I hate calling things “my muse”) Most of the time inspiration doesn’t show up when you want it to. You get a bit of free time. You sit down, ready to bust out a thousand words or so, but then nothing comes to mind. You don’t know what to write about. The monolithic blank page scares you so instead you waste some time on Twitter or going through pages on Reddit. Then your time’s up and guess what? You got nothing done. Thanks for not showing up, Inspiration.

Personally, I tend to come up with ideas at the weirdest times. The situation I just described above rarely happens to me. Not because I’m an amazing writer, full of ideas all the time. It’s just that I don’t try to write without a plan already in mind. But where do these plans come from? Weird places and strange times. The shower for instance. I’ll be taking my morning shower and bam! I’ve got an idea for a short story. Or what about when I’m falling asleep? I love and hate when that happens. I have to get up and write my ideas down or–what usually happens–text my ideas to myself so they’ll be on my phone in the morning.

I swear I’m trying to go somewhere with this post. Inspiration shows up unannounced. I write down my ideas so I don’t forget them. Then I try to use those ideas. A real life example: I’m working on a short story right now tentatively titled “Land Swimmers.” The idea came to me as I was falling asleep a few weeks ago. Instantly I knew that I had to do something about it or I’d forget it in the morning. I sent myself two texts and I’m so glad I did. Oh, the actual image/thought that sparked everything? “Giant worms that come out when it rains. Jump out of the ground like dolphins.” Yup. That’s where “Land Swimmers” is coming from.

What about all you other writers? What’s the weirdest time/place that inspiration has hit you? What’d you do when that happened?

Project Name: “Land Swimmers” (working title)

Deadline: 6/20/11

Word count: 1,663

 

Novel Revisions & Life Updates

Wow I haven’t written anything here in a while. A lot has happened since…damn May 4th was my last entry. Anyway here’s what’s been going on.

A couple weeks ago I got to spend an hour with a professional editor from a publishing company and have her critique the first chapter of The Exile’s Violin. Man that was an incredible privilege. I’ve been on the editing side of things before. She reached out to me after she had rejected my manuscript. That kind of thing almost never happens. The hour we spent going over the opening chapter was extremely productive. We identified some problems and worked out ways to fix them. After that hour I had a mission: to completely revise my manuscript and make it even leaner, tighter, and hopefully better.

So that’s what I did. Starting that afternoon and going up to about two days ago, I spent almost every free minute going over that manuscript. I cut over 6,000 words and rewrote a couple of chapters. I sent the polished manuscript out to a couple of beta readers yesterday. Hopefully I’ll get some good feedback. I’m feeling real good about the whole thing.

I haven’t worked on The Price of Loyalty in a while because the editing/revising took up all my time. Plus… I have a full time job now. So yeah working 40 hours a week also cuts into my writing time, but I’m not complaining! At this new job I’m learning all sorts of crazy cool stuff about SEO and internet marketing. But most importantly…it’s a job…that pays money. That’s really all I could ask for.

Oh I also had a birthday over the weekend. Yay me!

I’m feeling good. The last few months were tough with the whole unemployment thing, but it looks like things are starting to turn around. I got that great opportunity to have my manuscript looked at, I got a job, and I had a birthday all within a couple of weeks of each other. I’m going places baby!

Anyway tonight I’m getting back into the writing game. I’m not going to dive back into Price of Loyalty just yet. I kind of want a little bit of a break from the novel stuff. Instead I got a brand new short story outlined and plotted. Tonight I’m starting the heavy lifting. Wish me luck!

Oh and IN SITU has a release date: July 8, 2011. Mark your calendars. I can’t wait to get my hands on it.

Breaking Ground & Being a “Real Writer”

I’m having a very surreal moment right now. I’m breaking ground on my 2nd novel of 2011–my 3rd one all time. I just finished the outline for The Price of Loyalty after the end of a marathon day today. You’ll see what I mean when I get to the word count section. This is the longest outline I’ve ever written, so hopefully it’ll be easy to fill in the cracks when it comes to the actual writing part.

Let me break down the surreal part. I consider myself a writer, but in my head there’s a tiny voice that sometimes tries to tell me that I’m faking it. I’m not a real writer. I’m just someone who wishes they were a writer. When that voice kicks in the acceptances, the rejections, the completed stories, and even the two completed* novels don’t count for shit. It’s kind of annoying actually. I hate when that voice pops up. Well it’s kind of happening right now, but this time it’s a little more incredulous instead of discouraging. It can’t believe that I’m starting another book, never mind the fact that I just finished one a month or so ago. Writing yet another book is something real writers do. Okay, maybe it still is just discouraging.

Screw it! I’m writing another book. In a few months I’ll finish the rough draft, and then maybe that little voice will shut the hell up.

*By completed I mean I’ve finished one to the point where it’s suitable for submission. Its sequel has a complete rough draft but hasn’t had any edits or revisions. It’s kind of pointless to start really revising that one because it can’t really be sold on its own.

Here’s my statistics for this mentally exhausting day.

Project: The Price of Loyalty (outline)

Deadline: N/A (was supposed to be 6/1)

Word count: 7,964

 

My First Interview & Some Writing Updates

My first interview is up at the Dagan Books website. My first ever. I think it’s really cool that all the authors included in the In Situ anthology are being interviewed. It adds a little bit of personal flavor to the anthology if you can get a glimpse into the authors’ heads. At the very least, I hope I don’t come across as boring or dumb.

Sadly, the dumb part may not be avoidable. I just headed over there and realized that my spell checker changed the name of my story on me. It’s supposed to be “Jewel of Tahn-Vinh” not “Than-Vinh.” Also the website listed isn’t current anymore. I switched to this current site and forgot to to mention it to Dagan Books. Whoops. Should be simple enough to get proper info put in the interview though.

I took a break over the weekend and didn’t work on The Price of Loyalty outline. I’d been working on it for over a week straight and I needed a bit of a break. I dove right back into it. I got a good chunk of it done today. I’m actually over the 40,000 word mark for the outline, but that’s okay. It just makes the actual writing part that much easier. I’m getting near the climax and the main character is going to get the emotional shit kicked outta him. Nothing hurts more than broken trust and expectations.

Project: The Price of Loyalty outline

Deadline: N/A (maybe 6/1)

Word count: 8,066 (since 4/20)

Price of Loyalty Outline Updates

It’s been a while since I’ve posted here. I’ve been pretty busy. I’ve had several job interviews that went well, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed on that front.

I’ve put in lots of work on the Price of Loyalty outline. It’s coming along pretty well so far. There are a couple of rough/not fleshed out parts that I’ll have to go back to later, but they’re not important right now. I just want to get a detailed, complete framework for the story in place. Then I can start filling in the gaps and actually write the novel.

On a semi-related note. I started a new feature series over in the Community Blogs section on Destructoid. It’s called “Under the Radar” and it’s where I focus on games (some newer than others) that just flew under my personal radar. The first game featured in the series is BioWare’s Jade Empire from 2005. I don’t know how often it’ll be updated, but I’d like to at least make it a semi-regular thing.

Now word count and stuff.

Project: The Price of Loyalty outline

Deadline: N/A (maybe 6/1. 5/1 isn’t going to work)

Word count: 19,840 (since 4/8)

 

Space Opera Writing Updates

In all the excitement of writing my post about the definition of steampunk, I forgot to put up my writing updates. I’ve put the rough draft of Terraviathan aside for the time being. The Exile’s Violin needs to be published first before Terraviathan can be considered. I have plenty of time to work on edits, though I hope somebody picks up the book soon.

I started working on the outline of my science fiction, space opera novel The Price of Loyalty again. I’d first started it a couple of years ago when I was taking a break from The Exile’s Violin. I actually have a completed outline and several completed chapters, but they’re not up to my current standards. They feel very rough and unpolished, not what I’m capable of now. I decided to completely rework the outline and start over. So that’s where I’m at now.

Even though I define the novel as space opera, I’d like to think it’s not going to be generic space opera. Or at least it’ll be space opera with some nuances. Definitely not like this novel described (in jest) on Paul McAuley’s blog.

Project: The Price of Loyalty outline

Deadline: N/A (maybe 5/1 for the outline)

Word count: 12,477 since 4/4

 

Good News Everyone!

I hope you all just read that in the Professor’s voice from Futurama. If you didn’t then I’m ashamed of you. So I got some pieces of good news today. They’re not earth shattering or anything, but they’re still promising, more like opportunities for better news.

1) I have a job interview next week. Exciting.

2) I queried a publisher a couple of days ago about The Exile’s Violin because they said “they loved steampunk, but query first.” Thank goodness I saw their page when I did because their reading period was closing the next day. They got back to me this morning (2 days after I queried) and asked for the full manuscript! What? Normally you send in a query letter, then maybe some sample pages/chapters (anywhere from 1-3 chapters or maybe the first 20-50 pages) and  if they like the same, then the publisher asks for the full. Who knows, this could end in rejection, but I’m an optimist! I take it as good sign that the publisher wanted to read the full thing after reading my query letter. I know these things take time, but I can’t help it when I hope they get back to me right away–next week would be fine.

In other publishing related news, Tobias Buckell has an illuminating post on his blog about his story story collection Tides From the New Worlds and its ebook sales. It’s a very pragmatic and no nonsense look at ebook sales. It definitely offers something of a reality check for all those people out there who are screaming that print is dead and everyone should jump on board the digital train ASAP. I suggest you read his post, especially if you’re a published author.

And now writing updates.

Yesterday I did something a little unconventional for me. I wrote a short story in one sitting. Right now it’s titled “One Hundred Years” and its a little bit of a departure from what I normally write. I went for more of a straight up fantasy thing rather than sci-fi or speculative fiction. It’s not perfect and it needs some edits/revisions, but I’m feeling pretty good about it.

I also started revising my timeline and encyclopedia for my upcoming project The Price of Loyalty — a sci-fi novel that follows the rise and fall of one starship captain set in humanity’s future. It’s been really fun writing the encyclopedia and adding footnotes like it’s a real reference document. Once I get the encyclopedia a little more fleshed out, I’m going to start revising the outline. I like what I have so far, but it needs more depth and sophistication. Right now it feels very rough.

Project: “One Hundred Years”

Deadline: N/A

Word Count: 2,295

 

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