“Thank you, God. My character is all built up now. You can stop.”
Debra Doyle

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

not quite like athena
Thu 2014-02-13 23:11:55 (single post)

And then yesterday didn't happen. But look! Today, I finished a thing and I submitted that thing. I submitted it to Lightspeed. I am helping to Destroy Science Fiction!

*pats self on head*

The opening line I posted earlier? Didn't end up using it. It now lives in a file in the "Deleted Scenes" folder of the story's Scrivener project, along with a few other false starts and removed verbiage. This is because the story went in a different direction than it did during that first draft, which makes it an entirely different story. Which means the story that the first draft was pointing toward could yet happen. You never know.

Writerly observation of the week: Write it down, no matter how little or incomplete.

Unpacking that: Sometime this week, probably during a drive to or from Longmont (tomorrow night will be my first night all week not doing anything derby-related), I got an insight for the story. In the stalled-out draft, the Caroline-type character has just said a thing to the Louise-type character, and her voice sounded very calm and clear despite the situation. In my head, the Louise-type character makes an observation about her sister's voice, how it reminded her of other times her sister had whispered audacious ideas in her ear and led her into trouble. That's it. That's all. Just a small observation that added a small amount to what little I knew about their history.

I spent far too much time turning that over and over in my head. "OK, but so what? What does that mean? How am I going to use that?"

Today I said, "All right already," and took that tiny insight and added it to the draft. And that's when the draft changed direction and raced headlong toward its brand new goal.

I keep rediscovering this: Stories cannot be completed inside my head. They will not erupt from my skull fully formed and with gray eyes flashing. No, sadly, there comes a point where they simply hit a brick wall in there. And yet, magically, once I give in and just write down what I've got so far, that physical act of writing it down (and also the visual act of reading it) sparks the next idea that I'd been straining for in vain thus far. It's like a small plant that's gottne root-bound in its seedling cup; it needs to be transplanted into the wider world. Only once I put it on the page does it finally bloom.

Also, here's another writerly observation: Drop one name from a classic novel, and it's a literary allusion. Drop two names, and you risk your story looking like fan-fiction. This is not ideal if you're trying to sell the piece to a professional market.

Anyway. Here's hoping tomorrow's rewrite project goes as well as today's did.

getting ready, taking aim
Thu 2014-01-23 23:55:10 (single post)
  • 3,258 wds. long

I've put "It's For You" aside for the moment and have turned to another story in the infinite queue of Stories Requiring Rewrites. It's not that I'm trying to avoid ever actually finishing something (although I know it does look that way). It's that I suddenly realized that I only have about three more weeks to attempt to destroy science fiction, and "It's For You" is not science fiction.

So I thought to myself, "Didn't I recently write a short-short that juxtaposes space travel and relativity with the slow erosion on relationships by time and divergent life trajectories?" OK, no, that's not quite true. The thought was more like, "Hey, what about that flash piece that had to use three of a given list of words, 'redshift' and 'twin' being two of them?"

Which led to me pulling up the my 2012 Weekend Warrior submissions and worksheets. Weekend Warrior is an annual flash fiction contest they hold over in the Codex forums (link goes to public front page; forums are member-only). For the first five weekends in the year, give or take a holiday delay, there's a handful of prompts posted on Friday and a deadline on Sunday by which you submit a 750-word (maximum) story based on one of those prompts. Stories are posted anonymously, everyone comments on each other's stories anonymously and rates them on a scale of 1 to 10, and based on these ratings winners are declared at the end of the five weeks.

The story I'm thinking of was what I submitted during week 1. Fellow Codexians may or may not remember it under the title "Other Theories of Relativity." I copied it and all the comments it received to a new Scrivener project--and immediately despaired because it's a piece of aimless, nebulous, meandering woo. It's poetic, and some commenters declared it beautiful, but it's a piece that doesn't quite know what it wants to be. My job will be to tease that out and make something stronger out of that original attempt. (And also not make it look derivative of the movie Gravity, damn it, which it predates by more than a year but that alone will not be sufficient to save me.)

Meanwhile, my yWriter project containing that story also contains my contest submissions for weeks 2 through 5, and also the noodling I did on the prompts I ultimately did not use. ("It's For You" actually sprang from an unused Week 1 prompt, come to think of it.) If I'm diligent enough about the short story portion of my daily work routine, this little treasure trove could keep me feeding slush piles for the rest of the year. Or at least through Midsummer.

micromanaging the soup
Thu 2014-01-16 22:40:56 (single post)
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  • 700 wds. long

"Right Door" is on its way to a new slush pile, one that's reprint friendly. Which makes two submissions this week, hurrah! The other was "Blackbird."

Neither of these are strangers to the field. And while it feels good to keep 'em out in the slush ("'til Hell won't have it," as Jim D. Macdonald is wont to say), I miss the thrill of sending a story out for the very first time.

I am inching closer to being able to do just that with "It's For You," but when I say "inching" I do mean it.

Inch. Ing.

You know, I love the freedom of National Novel Writing Month. I love my daily 25 minutes of freewriting, too. I love writing rough draft. I get to transmit thought to page at the rate of 90wpm without worrying about perfection or even competence. It needn't be good so long as it's story.

Revision is a whole 'nother matter. I look at the previous version, I begin to type the new version, and immediately my brain freezes up under a blinking red banner that says THIS HAD BETTER BE RIGHT.

And it doesn't help that, after compiling the recent batch of critiques, I realize that this piece wants a lot more than discrete fixes to discrete bits. I wouldn't say it needs an overhaul, but the fixes it does need are sort of all-encompassing. The flavor needs adjusting. The ingredients need to be better integrate. It's like making soup, OK, but I can't just twist the grinder over the pot and then stir. I have to place each grain of ground pepper individually.

Argh.

And that is all.

magic realism and me
Wed 2014-01-15 23:03:36 (single post)
  • 3,258 wds. long
  • 700 wds. long

One of the random quotes that cycles at the top of this blog is from Jo Walton. It's about the dragons in her genius novel Tooth and Claw. I've been thinking about it today.

The snippet of the quote here is far too pared down to do justice to the original, though. Let me give you the full context.

It's a bit of conversation that went on in the comments following Patrick Nielsen Hayden's post from August of 2005, "Story for beginners." In it, he muses over a review of Kelly Link's fiction, in which the reviewer, who seems benignly confused about it, wonders whether the zombies are "supposed to be a metaphor", and a blazing-hot response to that review in which the blogger protests that they damn well aren't, at least not exclusively; no, they are real damn zombies and they will eat you.

That's not perhaps the best summary, but it'll tide you over if, say, you lose internet connection and need to restart your router while waiting for the above link to load. (You did click it, right? No? WELL DO SO FORTHWITH.)

As is generally the case over at Making Light, conversation ensured. Says one commenter,

I got into a rather heated argument a few months back with someone who was insisting that Tooth and Claw was good because "it isn't really about dragons." I said that it was too really about dragons, and that it would have been a much worse novel if it had not been really about dragons. "But I mean, really about dragons," said the other person. And I said yes, really about dragons. It didn't matter how many kinds of typographical emphasis she attempted to vocalize: Tooth and Claw is about dragons.

It also does other things, but if every little thing in it was a metaphor for man's inhumanity to radishes or some damn thing, it would suck.

Which is wisdom. Them what has ears, let them hear dat.

As is also often the case at Making Light, the author of Tooth and Claw was there to testify,

If they weren't solidly real dragons with parsons who have the right to eat the eyes of the dead it wouldn't have been worth doing.

This is coming to mind now because two very similar exchanges happened to me today.

  1. In a conversation online in a private forum (thus I will paraphrase, not link-and-quote) concerning the gap, difference, and overlap between science fiction and fantasy, one person mentioned preferring science fiction to fantasy because of an instinctive, involuntary need for rational explanations, or at least attempts thereto. But they fare better with magic realism than with straight-up fantasy, because their lit-crit background tells them they don't have to believe in the magic stuff; it's all just a metaphor.
  2. In compiling the critiques of "It's For You," I was reminded how many readers of the most recent two drafts reported not being 100% sure whether the narrator wasn't dreaming the whole fantastical thing, maybe the next-door neighbor who disappears into the painting like Mary Poppins into Burt's sidewalk art was never real to begin with... but that's OK, because they're enjoying the story as either magic realism or surrealism, where this sort of ambiguity is acceptable.

I should just like to take a moment and say a few words on behalf of fantasy everywhere, and also my inner child, and also my inner witch. And as I do so, please bear in mind that I mean no ill-will nor begrudgement to anyone referenced above; nevertheless, I'm a-gonna get shouty.

*deep breath*

THE VERY OLD MAN REALLY HAD REAL GREEN WINGS, OK, AND THE DOOR IN THE HOME DEPOT ACTUALLY GOES TO ANOTHER WORLD, RIGHT, AND ARISTA REALLY ACTUALLY TRULY DISAPPEARS INTO A PAINTING.

pant pant pant wheeze stomp stomp

*ahem*

Also, ten-year-old me wants you to know that there really, truly, actually is a heart beating under the floorboards. BECAUSE POE SAID SO.

And the dragons are solidly real dragons. And the zombies are really going to eat you.

This is how I relate to fantastic fiction of all stripes. I love both science fiction and fantasy, and I am as willing to take the author's word when they say "The narrator turned into a salamander" as when they say "This starship goes faster than the speed of light thanks to wormholes and genetically-designed pilots." It is not in me, no more now than it was when I first read "The Tell-Tale Heart," to doubt the veracity of the narrator's report.

I mean, if that's what the author wants me to think, I may get there eventually, if the author drops enough hints. But I don't go there first. The place I go first is, "I'm trusting you to take me for a ride. The wilder, the better."

This is also how I relate to my own fiction. I can't dictate your experience of it, now. If you prefer to think that Beth in "It's For You" never actually wakes up throughout the course of the story, or that the narrator of "Right Door, Wrong Time" is lying to the little kid about whether he can open a portal to another world, that is your innate right and I can't take that away from you. You may well read fantasy and think to yourself, "Well, that can't happen, so it must be that the narrator is mad, hallucinating, dreaming, or lying. Or maybe the whole thing's a metaphor."

But that is not my logic. My logic is WHEEEEE FANTASY WEIRD SHIT LET'S DO THIS!

Mainly I'm not very much interested in writing stories about sadly delusional people who think they can fly and are destined for a tragically hard landing. I live in that world already. (Or so I'm told. I'm not convinced, but it's politic to play along.) If I write about a person jumping out the window because she thinks she can fly, she's damn well going to soar.

I write fantastic fiction because I want this wide weird world we live in to be even weirder. On the page, I have the power to make it so.

So, my readers, my friends, my family, my loves, I promise you this and I tell you true:

When I write the weird shit, I want you to believe in it.

Writing + Derby = Bad-ass
Fri 2013-05-31 22:05:26 (single post)
  • 6,000 wds. long

I spent pretty much the entire working day finishing up revisions on a short story, which I then submitted electronically to a fantastic pro market just in time to not be late for roller derby practice.

I feel like I don't get to say that very often. I'd like to say it more often going forward. Although probably without risking being late. It would be nice to have less last-minute stress going forward, too. But, hey! Today I was a writer and a derby skater. It CAN be done! And I am doing it! Woot!

I win at today. And the best part is, tonight I got home from practice and said to myself, "Hey! I don't have a scary huge deadline hanging over me anymore! I done finished! I can go play Puzzle Pirates 'til my eyes fall out!"

That's the short version of today. Here's the long one:

Back in 2006 I went to Borderlands Bootcamp, and I brought this story of mine to be lovingly savaged by admirable writers and editors as well as my fellow students.

It was a manuscript critique workshop arranged into four break-out sessions each headed by two teachers and focusing on about eight different students' manuscripts. All students were expect to read and critique every single other manuscript because we weren't told in advance whose break-out group we'd be in, so people who didn't tell you about your story in person told you about it in email. That's a whole heck of a lot of critique. The sheer amount of it was enough to distract a body from the usual challenge of triangulating between different opinions; and there were a lot of different opinions too.

On the one hand, a fellow student emailed me a month before the bootcamp to basically say "OMG this is the best thing I've read in the whole bunch." On the other, one of the teachers in a break-out session started off by saying, "If I got this in the slush pile, I wouldn't buy it" (he is in fact an editor and he reads slush) and continued in a similar vein, hitting such points of interest as "It starts off way too slow. Cut the whole first section," and "Get rid of the aliens, you don't need the aliens, this is a perfectly OK horror story without the aliens," and "The sex scene isn't believable," and also "Here you make it sound like the main character is talking to a banana. 'Hello, banana!'" I think he may possibly have been worried, afterward, about how thoroughly he'd shredded it; when he ran into me at World Horror the next year or so, and he asked me "Are you still writing?" he seemed genuinely relieved that the answer was "Yes."

By far, however, the most interesting comment came in what I think was my last break-out session, from a well-published horror author whose name I should probably not drop here without permission, because when someone gives you explicit permission to drop his name in another context, you respect that, yo. But what he said amounted to this: "This is a really interesting story with a lot of potential. It needs a lot of work, of course... [followed by a thorough and detailed critique] ... but I think after you've revised it--and really revise it, now, don't skimp on the revisions!--you should send it to Ellen Datlow. I think this would be right up her alley." Like, for her next open anthology call, you mean? "No, I mean, just send it to her. You can tell her I said so."

So I did what a lot of insecure writers do who don't deal well with the pressure of This could be IT! I made several abortive attempts to begin revising it, and then I sat on it for years.

Sam, Mac, if y'all are reading this right now, you can proceed to yell at me. But know this: A thoroughly revised version of it has been submitted, as of today, the last day of the open reading period, to Fearful Symmetries. It took me seven years, but I got there at last, yo. (Also, there are still aliens in it. Sorry, Sam. But they're more like Lovecraft aliens now, OK? Like, "Colour Out of Space." And they are the reason for everything.)

I did not mention the above-mentioned author's name in the cover letter. It was an open call, so I didn't figure I needed to drop names to get it read in this particular circumstance. I suspect that "Hey, you published something of mine before! Here's something else" would be a more useful thing to say. Besides, I feel like there's a statute of limitations on permission to name-drop.

But if I get the opportunity (i.e. if she buys it), I'd love to be all "Hey, funny story about this story..."

(It'll probably be the medium-length version of the story.)

I won that.
Annnnnd That's a Draft
Fri 2012-11-30 23:44:43 (single post)
  • 53,489 wds. long

It's not so much a revised novel as it is a brand new first draft written from a revised outline. It's got a lot of plot holes, its characters need more development, and there are places when I couldn't figure out how to get from A to B so I just jumped over to B and started writing anyway. But as a novel draft it wanders less than the first one. And, unlike the first one, which kind of dribbled off into December, it's got an honest to goodness ending. It's not the right ending, but it's an ending. It's got a denouement and everything.

Two small excerpts are up on my NaNoWriMo.org profile. For posterity, yo.

About the freelance gig we will talk later. Tonight I do not want to spoil my happy with thoughts of the miles to go before Friday the 7th is allowed to get here. Tonight I'm just happy that, this November - or, for that matter, at all - I wrote an entire novel draft from beginning to end.

On Self-Critiques and Louisiana-Style Fried Chicken
Wed 2012-08-15 22:33:33 (single post)
  • 2,481 wds. long

Today started rather too early. John had to catch a 10:15 AM flight to Indianapolis (Gen Con!), so we left the house at 7:15 AM. Sometimes the thing I miss most poignantly about Metairie is the 15-minute drive from just about anywhere in town to the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport. From Boulder to DIA? On a weekday morning in I-270 commuter traffic? Allow an hour and a half, and hope.

But we made it on time -- early, even, despite bumper-to-bumper on the 270 -- and in proof of this you can see happy tweets from my husband in Indy. Which left me with two goals for the morning:

  1. A writing session involving, at least in part, revising the phone story, and
  2. An 8-piece box of Popeye's spicy fried chicken.


See, just at I-70 and I-270 and Quebec, there's a TravelCenters of America truck stop with an all-purpose diner, no free internet, and a Popeye's. This is the closest I get to a Popeye's on my way anywhere unless I'm actually in the New Orleans area. And there is nothing like grazing on cold Popeye's chicken out the fridge for days after Mom brings home far too much of it for a weekend lunch.

(Sometimes, I get so angry and exasperated at the whole "They be stealin Dan Cathy's freedom of speech, don't look at the millions of dollars going to Exodus Int'l and groups supporting death penalties for gay people in Uganda, you will know us by our Sparkly Moral Outrage!" that the most intelligent response I can come up with is "Boy I'm glad I'm a born-and-raised Popeye's fan. I yam what I yam, yo.")

What I discovered this morning was, the Popeye's at that TA outlet opens at 9 AM. Like, for breakfast.

Still, I delayed gratification and betook myself to the diner counter for coffee, oatmeal, toast, and a thorough self-critique of "It's For You." And when I say "thorough," I mean it. My MS Word copy of that manuscript is filled with inserted comments from tip to toe. Only once done with this, and a couple of other righteous tasks besides, did I venture to exchange money for hot greasy crispy juicy chicken bits.

But like I said: Thorough. Like, every single sentence of that draft evoked second thoughts and despair. Clunky here! Tighten this there! No wonder this reader was confused here and that reader told me not be so coy there! Erase this! Expand on that! Rearrange this paragraph because it is not in a logical, causal order! Arrrrgh.

Somewhere under the bewildered deer-in-headlights wibble of OMG there is so much that needs fixing here where do I START?! I am sure there is a kernel of subconscious working on the answers to that question. Which leaves my conscious brain free today to work on other worthwhile things, like (say) Examiner blog posts about Puzzle Pirates. (OK, that was sarcasm, but I do need to write that post.) Or like all things roller derby. (ALL THE THINGS.) Then maybe I can dredge out some of the answers tomorrow and make improvements happen.

Meanwhile, I'm wondering why an 8-piece box of Popeye's spicy fried chicken didn't last me past nightfall on the day of purchase.

Hangs head in shame. Woe. Contemplates the drive to the airport Sunday night.
I Show Up on Other Blogs. Also, Roller Derby.
Wed 2012-02-29 23:50:00 (single post)
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So, remember when I said something about author Diane Dooley soliciting authors to interview on her blog? (This was in the context of Bram Stoker Award Recommended Reading List WHAT?! Oh, and, by the way, the Stoker nominations are out, and Blood and Other Cravings is a nominee in the anthology category; Kaaron Warren's "All You Can Do Is Breathe," which kicks off the anthology, is nominated for a short fiction Stoker. This is very very cool.)

O HAI THERE RUNAWAY PARENTHESEES! U R IN MY SENTENCE STEALIN MY TRAIN-O-THOUGHT.

In any case, I volunteered to be interviewed, and so Diane Dooley interviewed me. You can read it here. It appears as part of her series of posts celebrating Women in Horror Recognition Month, which you should read, every bit of it, because it is awesome. Pro-tip: Follow ALL the links!

So there's that. Also, today, I wrote sort of a love letter to my roller skates. It will show up real soon now in the blog section of the Boulder County Bombers' new and improved website, when said website goes from being just a glimmer in the Website Committee's collective eye and becomes reality. In the meantime, if you're interested, you can visit the Boulder County Bombers on Facebook. And here's a direct link to the photo that esteemed ref "Shutter Up" took of us during endurance practice on Saturday the 25th. I'm in the middle row, towards the left, black T-shirt with white printing, red belt, and a black helmet that looks weirdly gold/copper in the camera flash.

Speaking of roller derby: I'm skating with the Boulder County Bombers. I'm officially a member and everything. I'd been skating Sundays with the Rocky Mountain Rollergirls, and they are exceedingly awesome! I was going to join them and everything! But they practice in Commerce City. This requires a route from Boulder involving Highway 36, I-270, Highway 2, and I-70. On a Sunday afternoon, that's about 30 to 45 minutes. I hate to think what it would be like for Tuesday and Thursday evening practices. And the bus ride is two hours. Each way. Once I became aware of the existence of a league that practiced in the same county I live in, it was a no-brainer. Weeknight practices still involve rush hour traffic, but rush hour traffic to Longmont is oodles less soul-crushing. And the bus ride is under an hour, if you don't mind a 10 to 15-minute bike ride to/from the bus stop. Which I don't, at least not when the wind isn't 80 freakin' miles an hour (this is me glaring meaningfully at last week), especially since that bike ride takes me past a burger joint, two coffee shops with wi-fi, and several sit-down restaurants which I can enjoy if I take an early bus.

But then I don't often have to bus, because A) John now works in Boulder, so he can leave me the car most days, and B) three or four other BCB skaters live within a half-mile of me and like to carpool. Life is good.

It's no secret -- in fact, it's probably the sport's best-known feature -- that roller derby is bad-ass. Skaters take pride in their injuries, 'cause we get 'em being PHEARLESS!!!! Here's my running injury report thus far. See if you can spot the common thread.

Tue. Feb. 14 @ BCB Phase 1 practice: Fell on my face during tomahawk-stop/toe-stop running drill. Injury: Split lip. Symptom: a fantastic bruise like an off-center soul patch for about a week.

(Interestingly, if someone does a horrified double-take and gasps, "What happened to you?!" saying "Roller derby! It was awesome!" puts them immediately at their ease. I've gotten very good at saying that. Possibly too good. Not everyone wants to hear the entire Tale Of The Faceplant in second-by-second detail, despite what an entertaining story it does make. But better to risk TMI than being all self-consciously mumbly and accidentally communicating the wrong thing thereby. It is all too easy for well-meaning acquaintances to mistake "Meh, fell down, no big deal, let's talk about something more interesting" for a situation requiring immediate attention and possibly phone numbers of Places That Can Help.)

Sun. Feb. 19 @ RMRG tryouts: Fell on my butt while practicing turnarounds (step one in a tomahawk stop) before try-outs began. Pretty much sat down hard on a wheel. Injury: Bruised tailbone. Symptom: I'm still occasionally yelping if I sit down on the ground and then shift wrong. Sit-ups suck.

(But I did pass try-outs! Evaluation only, since I had decided by then to join BCB, but still, very cool.)

Tue. Feb. 23 @ BCB Phase 1 assessments: Fell sort of backwards and sideways while trying to hold the toe-stop stance after completing a tomahawk stop. The evaluators wanted to see us hold for 3 seconds. On that particular try, I failed miserably. Injury: Jammed three fingers on my left hand. Symptom: Stiff, sore, swollen fingers. The segments of the middle and ring finger especially look like the first stages of making a balloon animal. On the middle finger there's some really artful blue blushing, too. Last night I could barely tie on my tennis shoes, had to use my teeth to get my mouthguard case open, and I almost needed to ask a fellow skater to help me button my jeans. I wimped out entirely on making the bed. I just couldn't grip anything. Today I'm doing much better, but I still can't lift a tea-cup with the left hand. Interestingly, my ability to play Spiral Knights, or indeed type, has not been affected.

(I passed assessment and will begin attending Phase 2 practices starting tomorrow. My evaluator told me I'll need to work on smoother turnarounds. I was not surprised.)

So that's the news, and I'm off to bed. Tomorrow: March 1! Day one of NaNoEdMo! Will I be logging hours? I don't know! Will I be editing a novel? Damn straight!

Qualified Candidates Please Submit List of Characters and Themes
Wed 2012-02-08 23:13:06 (single post)
  • 57,023 wds. long

OK, so, novel. I'm officially stating it here: The novel currently known as Like a Bad Penny is the one to which I'll be devoting All The Revision Energies this spring. Hopefully the results of this will be -- unlike the last time I decide to do this -- a submittable manuscript. Then I can angst about query letters and synopses. I've never gotten to angst about query letters before. Not for novels, anyway.

I should apologize to my husband that I did not choose to work on Melissa's Ghost. John's always asking me, "When are you going to finish my novel?" All I can say is, I have to go with the one that's been hammering on the walls inside my brain.

On the other hand, once I finally get a novel revised and into the query cycle for the first time, it's likely I'll want to do it again. Because by then I'll know I can do it, see? Magic!

So the same goes for my 2011 NaNoWriMo draft, Caveat Emptor. Some weeks ago I was telling a good friend about starting without a clue and having finally, fifty thousand words later, come to some sort of a decision about a premise, and I was describing that premise to her, and she was all, "I want to read it," and I'm all, "Eventually, you will! Eventually." Eventually just got more eventuallyer.

On the other hand, this decision means that the "eventually" associated with Like a Bad Penny, also known as "the one in which I swear I'm not ripping off X-men or Jumper or Heroes either," just got shorter. Shorter than it would be, anyway.

What I did with it yesterday: Dedicated a new blank spiral notebook to it. Gathered notebook, pens, a bottle of beer, and a print-out of the first part of Holly Lisle's "One-Pass Manuscript Revision" strategy. Ran a hot bath. Sat in hot bath drinking beer and noodling on theme, sub-theme, character arcs, etc. Also made a list of the first few scenes in the book, the ones I know will actually be in it.

The "hot bath and a beer" element is part of my "stop procrastinating and do the dang thing" kit. Sometimes it's "hot bath and a shot of single malt scotch." Needs vary.

Anyway, the novel draft is not ready for a One-Pass Manuscript Revision. The novel draft currently consists of a muddled beginning and a possible muddled ending connected to each other by means of a muddled muddle. This is to be expected after NaNoWriMo. I am a firm believer in babble drafts, or, as Laini Taylor puts it, "exploratory drafts." Sometimes I call them "zero-th drafts." It's what I write when I think I know what I'm writing but because I haven't written it yet I can't be sure. I had an epiphany about this early in 2010's NaNoWriMo: I don't know what I'm writing until I read what I've written. So the first (or zero-th) draft is mainly me babbling to myself about the story I want to write. I mean, the narrative voice isn't "And then this happens and then that happens," it's more novel-like than that, but it's pretty darn babbly.

Thus with Bad Penny. In the next few weeks I hope to go from babble draft to an actual first draft. I'll start with the scenes that I know have to be in there, and I expect I'll find out how to unmuddle the middle (and the end) while I'm writing them.

Meanwhile, in Non-November News
Sat 2011-11-19 22:26:40 (single post)

While I've been nattering on about NaNoWriMo, I've failed to blog another development: Another short story of mine will soon see print.

This isn't a pro-sale, or in fact a sale at all. But I'm pleased with it. Anything that hauls a piece of fiction out of the rewrite queue and delivers it into the slush is a slice of the positive, in my opinion. And it was a happy thing to dive into this particular slush pile.

I graduated from the University of Washington back in... well. My final quarter was Fall 1996, but I officially took the walk in Spring 1997. I did my time in a somewhat unorthodox fashion, starting with an impressive handful of AP credits and attending classes straight through the summers. So I graduated "Class of I Haven't Got A Clue, Random Mid-90s, How's That?" with a BA in English, concentration in Creative Writing, with honors. This required that I present an Honors Thesis to my Advisor (the most awesome Shawn Wong, who had just published American Knees at the time). My Honors Thesis consisted of pretty much every piece of fiction or poetry I'd created during my time at the University of Washington, presented for critique, revised and rewritten and polished until sparkly.

As you might guess, it was full of weird stuff. "And on the Seventh Day," a story inspired by misreading "an angel waking up a man" as "an angel waking up as a man." "Out from Under," a bit of wanna-be magic realism inspired 90% by resentment at my ex-boyfriend and 10% by grudging acknowledgment that I wasn't exactly perfect myself. "The Goddess Factor," a bit of science fiction inspired by the then-new idea of DNA computing. And so forth. The whole compendium I called Songs About Fallen Angels.

I have been reliably informed, by a recent UW graduate whom I met at Sirens 2011, that I would never have been able to graduate on that today. The UW English Department, I'm told, will not even consider an application whose writing sample has a whiff of the spec-fic.

This floors me. In my time, I encountered absolutely no genre-unfriendliness, neither from classmates nor from teaching assistants nor from professors. The closest I experienced to genre-unfriendliness was a TA critiquing the narrative style of "The Children of Ghosts," which was admittedly written from fresh fannish squee for Meredith Ann Pierce's Darkangel trilogy. He didn't mind that I was using an anacronistic high fantasy style; he minded that I was doing it badly.

But today, I'm told, times have changed. The UW English Department no longer stands as an exception to the dearth of welcome SF/F/H finds in academia. And a recent handful of English graduates -- my Sirens informer included -- decided to do something about it. They started a new literary journal, one dedicated to speculative fiction in all its glory. It's called AU, and its next issue will include my Viable Paradise "Hats of War!" story, "The Worms Crawl In, The Worms Crawl Out."

Or so I'm told. In any case, I just emailed my revised draft to the editors this morning. Hopefully this new rewrite didn't change it from something they liked into something they liked less. We shall see.

In any case, I'm ecstatic to hear that something like AU exists, and I want it to go on existing for a long, long time. I submitted a story to it because 1) the theme was "Invasion," a perfect match for "Worms," and 2) because, hearing about AU at Sirens, I immediately wanted to support it, and submitting a story seemed a logical way to do that. I only wish something like AU had been around when I was still an undergrad.

Hooray for acedemic support for speculative fiction! More like that, please!

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