I’ve been a little unsure of how to spend my post-draft, pre-edit time but I think after two days spent not writing, I have an idea.
This morning, I compiled all of the chapters into a single document in preparation for my first full read and edit. The manuscript comes in ate just about 300 pages (350 in trade form). I then immediately put that away.
I also spent some time looking at publishing databases and writer’s forums online, but I feel like I know where I what to go and how I want to attack those steps, when I get to them.
As I expressed before, I want to get in some good edits on the first novel before I start the second, but I don’t want to break from writing entirely. Just for the nascent novel manuscript.
So rather than spin my wheels or write something I’m not ready to write or research just to tell myself I’m working, I’m going to spend some time editing two short pieces I wrote just before I started in on Suzerain.
I have a novella about nanotech and corporate malfeasance about which I am conflicted. I’m hoping a second read through and a full series of edits will bring the story higher in my estimation.
I would also like to work on a short story set aboard a generational ship and centering on a pivotal moment in a young girl’s passage into adulthood. I have the boon of another person’s rather thorough edits on this short story, and I was rather proud of it when I finished, so maybe I can make it ready-to-read.
Depending on the results of these edits, I may try to publish one or both of the stories in the early part of next year.
Let’s see how busy I can keep.
I’ve already posted this on Twitter, but I have so much conflict inside me right now. I need a longer form.
This morning, around 8:15 local, I finished the first draft of my first novel. It took six months to the day writing almost every day. I took 12 days off in random burst for a slew of reasons: Thanksgiving, WorldCon, illness, etc.
For reasons beyond my immediate capacity to convey, I didn’t immediately begin jumping up and down. I called my lady and tweeted to some fellow writers, but mostly I felt a stronger sense of ambivalence than I can recall having ever felt before.
I was excited, no worried there, but I have know this week was likely to see the draft finished for months. I have a very disciplined approach to writing. But metering that excitement are a slew of frightening prospects.
I think I’m going to take a breather for a couple of days to find my head. I’ve known from the start that book one cannot be finished until book two is nearly drafted and I’m so glad I’ll have the freedom to tweak all of the issues inherent in a first novel.
I’m about to start an altogether new routine, this time completely unlike anything I have ever done—as a writer—before and I am optimistically terrified.
William James on Habit | Brain Pickings -
Rather intriguing the line that James ends up toeing in talking about the boons of habit. He would very nearly seem to be warning the staunch practitioner of habitual behavior against approaching inflexibility in the ways one structures their day.
Even with that caution put, and I will admit I may be placing it in there by virtue of a mind set into its machinations a full century later, he still promotes habit as the single best vehicle for forming the self as one wishes or hopes:
- The acquisition of a new habit, or the leaving off of an old one, we must take care to launch ourselves with as strong and decided an initiative as possible. Accumulate all the possible circumstances which shall reenforce the right motives; put yourself assiduously in conditions that encourage the new way; make engagements incompatible with the old; take a public pledge, if the case allows; in short, envelop your resolution with every aid you know. This will give your new beginning such a momentum that the temptation to break down will not occur as soon as it otherwise might; and every day during which a breakdown is postponed adds to the chances of its not occurring at all.
- Never suffer an exception to occur till the new habit is securely rooted in your life. Each lapse is like the letting fall of a ball of string which one is carefully winding up; a single slip undoes more than a great many turns will wind again. Continuity of training is the great means of making the nervous system act infallibly right … It is surprising how soon a desire will die of inanition if it be never fed.
- Seize the Very first possible opportunity to act on every resolution you make, and on every emotional prompting you may experience in the direction of the habits you
aspire to gain. It is not in the moment of their forming, but in the moment of their producing motor effects, that resolves and aspirations communicate the new ‘set’ to
I would like to keep this review somewhat brief and towards that end I’ve chose to review The Hunger Games: Catching Fire purely on the merits and faults in the novel’s adaptation. For that reason, I’ve made no attempt to avoid spoilers, though a bit of vague language might just keep one guessing. There is so much more to be said about the films and the books, but as writing and reading are my primary interest, here you go:
As I say, there is much more to say, so I’d like to direct you to these reviews to start. Hope you enjoy.
In all ways except originality, Catching Fire is a superior sequel (A.V. Club)
A Textual Analysis of The Hunger Games (Slate)
How Catching Fire Fixed All the Worst Mistakes The Hunger Games Made (io9)
The Fascinatingly Flexible Political Subtext of ‘The Hunger Games: Catching Fire’ (Flavorwire)
The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling by Ted Chiang — Subterranean Press -
A very touching, recently published story about the cross-cultural effects of technology on our conceptions of self.
I planned originally to write a review of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire to post today, but this morning I got into work and started feeling sappy and blessed so instead I want to share a few things for which I’m thankful. If you’re interested, I’ll post the review on Wednesday.
I wish everyone a beautiful holiday. If you’re in the DFW metroplex and you don’t have anywhere to go on Thursday, send me a message. I’ll make sure there is turkey to spare.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about issues surrounding book discovery and the massive changes taking place in the world of publishing and, one step removed, in reading, seem to be something of a mixed bag right now.
I grew up in a poor East Texas town and developed my love of books for two reasons. First, my mom loved to read. It is oft said that having books in the home is one of the very best indicators of school performance and a developing love for the written word. The books in my house changed often and were frequently of the true crime, Anne Rule variety but nevertheless I was very used to seeing my mom and maternal grandmother immersed in a book.
Second, there was next to nothing to do back home and so I spent a good amount of time at my under-provisioned local library. This changed a bit when my mom and I moved first to Dallas and later to Houston, but during the summers while visiting dad, I started volunteering to have more time to spend among the stacks.
During the past 6 months, I’ve been reading a lot of enormous novels—in excess of 600 pages—and really enjoying them. Most of these have been series but I’ve just recently finished two standalone books of 600+ (Perdido Street Station by China Miéville) to 1100+ (Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson) pages and, though they are quite dissimilar, I’ve been considering them in relation to one another.
I’ve counted Stephenson among my favorite authors for a while despite only really liking about 50% of what I’ve read by him. It seems that his greatest strength is, at times, also his downfall. Stephenson’s novels are frequently described as infodumps [example 1] [example 2] [example 3], and these can be a ton of fun whether the material feels esoteric, as in the case of my favorite of his novels Anathem, reiterative, as in his genre redefining Snow Crash, or inapplicable, as with Reamde, to the reader. I really enjoy diving into the insane detail he provides as both background for the story and instruction for all manner of geeks. However, when something in the story isn’t working, the infodump makes an already problematic story that much more of a slough to read. Best example here is probably Reamde, which really held me for about 500 pages before the thriller became entirely too predictable for a reader of few thrillers. At that point, spending 25 pages diving into a single topic made the novel difficult to pick up and entirely too easy to put down.
After Reamde, I was a little jaded in going back to Stephenson’s older novels. When I tried Cryptonomicon for the first time, I dropped it around 2/3rd completed. That seems a bit later to abandon, but for a novel of that size, there were still about 400 pages remaining and I just couldn’t see a reason to stick around. That was about 9 months ago and in the meantime, as I said, I’ve been reading quite a few enormous novels and something called me back.
I was not drawn to Perdido Street Station for the same reason. About 20 months ago, I read Embassytown and was quite honestly blown away by the magnificent exploration of symbolic language and Miéville’s ability to integrate that into a compelling story without distraction. Since then, I’ve been wanting to dive into another of his books. Sadly, his work is underrepresented at my local libraries and used bookstores and I only recently picked up a MMP of Perdido. In between the two novels, I became enamored with Miéville as a critical writer and personage in SFF, so when I got my hands on Perdido, I had a hard time not laying the book I was already reading aside.
I should say that while I do not harbor any animosity towards fantasy, neither do I have any affinity for it. This is completely inexplicable to me, to be honest. I can say with some verve that I am not interested in the Tolkien-branch of high fantasy, but I have absolutely torn through the first four Song of Ice and Fire novels in the past three months and the only reason I haven’t started Dance with Dragons is my wish to hold it until February to meter out my anticipation while waiting for HBO’s Game of Thrones to finish the third novel.
Thanks to Miéville, I believe I am beginning to see what has kept me away from fantasy. I don’t mean to insinuate that Miéville is the only fantasy writer that can really pull me in, but his blending of new and old conventions and his respect for the in-world limitations of a fantasy story make me likely to recommend Perdido to a wide variety of readers.
As I say, these novels are not terribly similar. Both authors have dabbled in similar genres and tropes, though not in the stories at hand. These works are, again, quite expansive but Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon clocks in at nearly double the length of Perdido. But the attention to seemingly insignificant detail is something I see as shared between the two. Done right, the absolutely staggering amount of information imparted by these kinds of novels can be enchanting and, honestly, addictive.
In Perdido, the main focus of attention is given to describing the circumstances, situations, inhabitants, politics, architecture, and moods of New Crobuzon, a major city in the Bas-Lag world (to which Miéville has twice returned in non-sequential novels). Bas-Lag is a world filled with numerous sentient and sapient races, steampunk-like technology, a scientifically misunderstood form of magic referred to as thaumaturgy, toyed up physics, and a great deal of institutional corruption. Having finished the 623 page novel, I have the feeling as though I have spent a semester abroad studying in New Crobuzon and now wish to explain at great and aggravating length why others should follow. Though, since the novel is 13 years old, I’ve hardly blazed a new trail. The plot is intriguing and pulls one through the story at a steady and reliable pace, but what really enthralls the read of this novel is the detail of Miéville’s imagined city. This was only my second of his fiction works, but I can certainly count myself a Miéville fan, now and forever.
The exhaustive detail in Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon is much less to do with the world of the novel and far more to do with its ideas. The reader is privy to the amazing depth of Stephenson’s research into cryptography, cryptology, and World War II history. The novel switches between numerous POVs spanning from the end of the 1930s to just ahead of the novel’s 2002 publication date. As with all of his novels, it serves the dual function of telling an intricate story and expounding the reference work worth of knowledge on its primary subjects.
I’m coming to realize that I really love these kinds of expansive novels with unimaginably intricate world building more and more. The insular novels of the mind and the sparce novels of modernity and 1970’s social SF are still important to me and they will likely bare a greater resemblance to my own writing for the foreseeable future, but nothing draws me in quite as these huge, detailed and idea saturated stories can.
I highly recommend both of these novels, though for a Stephenson newbie, I might warn you to start with Snow Crash or, if unintimidated by math, the superb Anathem.