Saturday, August 28, 2010


The first book I can remember reading all the way through is "The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night", and not just because it was the unexpurgated Burton translation. Lots of sex and violence and magic and heroism and comedy and puns and footnotes explaining the puns in cunning linguistics, and there's sex again.

This has colored my style and pacing in several ways.

Most obvious is that I am eager to end a scene abruptly before I've milked all the plot out of it. Snappy scenes make snappy stories, I say.

The second most obvious color is that I like onion plots. You peel it away one piece at a time and it makes you cry. There's no mystery at the center, because you knew already knew it's an onion. But it makes everything else taste delicious.

Third, audience interest is the only thing that matters, so tailor your story to your audience and put in something for everybody. And don't get hung up on flowery language unless you're submitting to the New Yorker.

And while it's true that sex sells, it's characters that are having it. Even in porn.


One of the main benefits of being a writer is that nobody ever asks you to dance. Wait, wait, let me explain! You have other sexy talents that you can display at parties: a complex wit beguiling your fellows, the suave dissipation of the professional artist, the license to wear white in the winter-time above the Mason-Dixon line. And complete freedom from the mores of prudish society just so long as you continue writing while engaging in your prurient interests. It's a Free Pass to Debauchery.

You silly're wasting your lives!

2000 words? Yes
Book "Lived Too Long To Die" - chapter 11
- - - -
Reading - "Remnant Population" (Elizabeth Moon)

Friday, August 27, 2010


When it comes to critiques/alpha reads, there's a big difference between a reader who doesn't write and a writer. I call the writer-readers "Wreaders", and I actively seek them out.

A writer reads widely and, often, critically as an essential part of the job. And nobody who reads like that can escape unscathed. You'll end up with an understanding of plot, style, and grammar. Not to mention a feel for words and a broad view of what makes for a good story.

On the other hand, plenty of people enjoy reading and read a lot more than active writers. They have a different, equally valuable insight that I can't replicate: the views of a pure reader. Somebody who wants to be astounded, captivated, taught, and above all Entertained. Someone who will spend an enjoyable time with a book without thinking about how they would have done it. Most writers can do that, but they're never sure if they have.

So, writers create superior critiques, but I'm not selling writing primarily to writers. That's not sustainable. Readers know what they want, but not how to make it. Taking the two styles of critique and putting them together should produce a quality piece.

My alpha reader strategy, then, is (1) submit the piece as soon as I've read it over and feel it's complete, then (2) get at least one reader and one wreader to take a look at the story so that I can apply these lessons in later pieces. Unless there's an especially obvious flaw in the critiqued piece that wants fixing.


So a time traveller goes back in time to 1945 and shoots Hitler in that bunker. Way to go, Time Traveller! Then he says to Eva Braun: "Dearest, I've loved you even though we were separated by temporal circumstances."

"Oh darling, I remember you from my dreams," she says and leaps into his arms, instantly redeemed from her Nazi ways by the power of love. Then they kill the bunker washerwoman (shooting Hitler is a Get Out of Hell Free card) and burn both of the bodies.

Returning to the Future, which is almost exactly the same, Eva Braun becomes a happy housewife with a cooking show and the time traveller becomes President of the United North American Confederacy (UNAC).

It turns out their daughter is accidentally sent back in time and, abandoned, becomes the washerwoman.

The above plot is still not as stupid as this:

2000 words? Yes
Book "Lived Too Long To Die" - chapter 10
- - - -
Reading - "The Planet Buyer" (Cordwainer Smith)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Loads and Loads of Characters

Why are there so many characters in this book?

Is what my hypothetical reader might say. Well, I'll tell you, Hypierre: I like characters. And I hate extras.

If there's a pilot, give her a name! If there's a board meeting, at least describe the other members on the board. Anybody who merits individual inclusion into a scene gets some characterization. Because nobody wants to be Policeman #3.

The book is about a crew of competent people who meet another group of competent people, and then the groups merge and split off into missions of competence. And since they have a whole planet (solar system?) to do these missions in, sure, there's going to be a lot of characters. But there's a lot of fun plot for the characters to be doing. Haven't got to the clipper ships yet, but it's coming up.

"Hypierre" is now a character on this blog, the stand-in for all my hypothetical readers.


I'm a sucker for a good line. The man walked through the door and fired once, twice. I fired the third shot, and it hit him hard. I leapt up, and the story rolls forward, Who? Why? Then again, I hate mystery. James Troika, mob enforcer, rolled in his guns blazing, I took him out and thought: "I'd better get that paperwork to the clerk of court fast!" The deadline was noon, and it was already Half Past Eleven.

I referenced the title in the first paragraph. Flying Golem Award!

500 words? Yes
Book "Lived Too Long To Die" - chapter 9

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


This space intentionally left blank


I described a dress today when introducing a new female character. I think this is the first time that a design for a fashionable article of clothing has popped into my mind fully formed. It'll sit in this book as a gift for the wardrobe department when this is turned into a feature film. I like to help out.

Just to prove I'm not a sexist for only describing the women's clothes, here's a picture from the Great Housewife Wars. Why would you even DO that?

500 words? Yes
Book "Lived Too Long To Die" - chapter 9

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Out & About

I started a short story ("Kritarchy") today in addition to working on "Lived Too Long To Die".

But I have a good excuse: I can only visualize 10,000 words at a time.

On those days when I'm out in the world and working out of a notebook, it's a lot easier for me to keep the plot of a short story straight in my mind than it is to organize the multiple threads of a book plot.

This isn't a way for me to justify procrastinating on the book, it's just a statement of the current facts-on-the-ground. I'm also confident in my ability to juggle multiple plots, anyways, so I don't have to worry about getting confused.

I've discovered that writing a book is different from writing a short story. Writing a sentence or two in downtime throughout the day works for short stories, but a book requires concentrated effort of at least an hour in length, because I have to remember where it's going.

My theory is that this is all just a symptom of my having written about a hundred short stories that I like but only one book that I am barely satisfied with. I've got the "short story" mindset down, and I need to practice the "at-length" mindset. Presumably the only way to do that is to write more books.

On it.


I want to get better at writing Fantasy, by which I mean "Not Science Fiction per se". Yaknow, ghosts and magic and such. Or steam-punk. Or bio-punk. Or alternate history. Or some unholy union of all four, where the Nuclear-Powered Merrimac battles the Organic Regenerating Monitor while the opposing sorcerers Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis have it out in the dream-realm of Robert E. Lee's conscience. And the ghost of Stonewall Jackson is the narrator.

I call it "Sibyl War".

500 words? Yes
Book "Lived Too Long To Die" - chapter 9
Short Story "Kritarchy" - in progress (~1/4)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Rejection and the Single Guy

I get rejected a lot.

But this is a writing blog, so let's focus on Rejection Slips: Dang! I've got a lot of those. I should wallpaper my bedroom so that all the ladies I bring home can read them.

This is a good thing.

It's old by now, but you can't go four steps on the Writing Internet without running across somebody who got a piece published after 84 rejections. And you can't read a biography without ferreting out from between the lines that One Day of Luck that explains the rest. Luck is the 1% that makes the 99% pay.

Fortunately, by all accounts it doesn't take a lot of luck to make it as a writer.

Rejection means I'm trying. And caring about rejection motivates me when I don't want to try anymore. When it's no fun and I'm feeling demotivated, I can just look at a rejection form and say "well, dammit, I'll show them!" and keep trying. If I were feeling pithy, I'd say that the only person who can reject you is yourself.

I'm going to go so far as to say that I Love Rejection. Especially brutal rejection, fast and to the point. "You, sir, are a Bad Writer, you should feel bad about that piece, and here's WHY: 1,2,3." Wham! Reaction! "Well,  try this one!" Until They Stop Being Brutal. They're the ones with the money, I'm the one with the talent. We can have a beautiful relationship.

I've had a lot of experience with rejection, but I've also had a lot of experience getting what I want by blatant stubbornness. Not the jackass kind, but the smart stubborn that molds itself into the right shape to get through the obstacle. That sees the obstacle as a challenge all of its own.

That is to say, it's not doing the work that's hard, it's getting the work in the first place.

And being rejected a million times plus one is not the same as being rejected every time.


I am fascinated by the idea of human colonization of Europa (and Ceres). It just seems like it'd be fun to be from a small-town moon (minor planet).

Anyways, if there's life there I say we eat it and steal its Unobtainium.

500 words? Yes
Book "Lived Too Long To Die" - in progress (~9/100)

Sunday, August 22, 2010

It's Not a Hobby

Here's what this blog is about: Writing.

Specifically, my writing. Every day.

Not for fun, although it is. Not for a writing group, although I have a couple. Not for a pick up line, although it does work as such. In short, it's not a hobby.

This is writing for professional publication by a professional writer. That is, it's a blog about my chosen profession, and how I intend to make a full-time living at it.

Here's what you'll see on the blog everyday around 5-7PM (my time). At the bottom, you'll see the daily word count target: Yes, No, or OK, and the current project status. In the body, you'll have something about writing and something on some other topic as it occurs to me. There will be pictures. And maybe a podcast.

Every day, unless I'm dead, I will write at least 250 words (1 handwritten sheet) of fiction. That's the absolute minimum. In a full day's writing, I will write at least 2000 words (or finish the story). Half-day is 1000, and Better Minimum is 500.

Writing this much is Easy, if I sit down and do it. The hard point is writing that much and writing it well, and keeping on writing it better and experimenting and making it bigger, smarter, faster, thicker. More elegant. And using fewer adjectives. Anybody could do it, who can type.

But since I'll sit down and actually do it every day, whether I want to or not...It's Not a Hobby.

But it's a great way to live.


The introduction is over, and I finished up the first Big Peril Scene, a running battle through the crumbling streets of a post-apocalyptic world. Introducing the metaphor zombies (although they're not called zombies, because this is the Far Future after a singularity apocalypse). I think my idea is fresh enough to justify using zombies. It's not just "The reader's bored! Send in the zombies." Now I get to introduce a couple of Earth characters as they meet Our Heroes the Space Scouts. Fun.

Oh no, zombie! Why did I use my voodoo stylus...

2000 words? Yes
Book "Lived Too Long To Die" - chapter eight (~2/25)
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