Saturday, December 31, 2011

Enjoying the Living Hell out of Horror Writing [WIP]

I've got a chapter of The Work nearly presentable for Magic City Writers, which is good considering that they'll need it tomorrow if they're going to have a week to critique it before our January 8th meeting.

This single 2,100ish-word chapter is the hardest-researched and most-thought-about prose I've ever written, especially given the short amount of time it's been since coming up with the story idea: December 5, so it's been less than a month. Behind the scenes, I've constructed a massive mind map to support the conceptual framework of the novel, written over 8,700 words of characters' backstory, and put together two full chapter-by-chapter outlines in Scrivener (I threw away the first).

I've also been filling my head with great (well, awful, but a great kind of awful) material, for nearly four weeks straight now. In novels: Whispers by Dean Koontz, Misery by Stephen King, Odd Thomas by Koontz, and I'm in the middle of The Shining by King. And in audio: I've listened to eighteen or so half-hour episodes of the Pseudopod horror podcast in the car going to and from work. The podcast in particular has been helpful: Pseudopod is an excellent resource for what sounds good and is paced well for the ear, instead of just the page.

It's been lot of work in a short time for 2,100 words, true, but so far the result has been unlike anything I've ever produced. Rough around the edges, but almost entirely character-driven, and using better-realized characters: plot movement can just fall into place when the characters are people you feel like you know. Their motivations pull the story along, instead of the reverse.

It's all been surprisingly easy, and surprisingly simple, and yet frighteningly exposed: I'm used to a LOT more worldbuilding being required. The Work is taking place entirely in modern-day America, with only a few brand names changed to protect the innocent. There's no sheen from duralloy bulkheads or glow from magical thought-eating algae to hide behind here: it's just me, the characters and the reader.

TL;DR: this feels great. I'm enjoying the act of writing more than I have in years, and I've hardly been hating it. This is definitely a new phase of the craft for me, and I'm loving the ride.

And now, some Work in Progress:

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Hitting the Characterization Part Hard; Horror's Needs

The past two weeks have seen me undertake something I'm ashamed to admit I've never really done properly before: sit down and do character sketches of all the major characters in a novel I'm planning to write. Not "write a diary entry about characters," or "ponder a character's background and write down a few thoughts," but "fill out a structured character sketch, from background to conflicts to an overview of what I want/need their character to do in the book."

It's been a humbling and exciting exercise: on the one hand, I'm having to answer all sorts of niggling questions I'm embarrassed not to have thought of beforehand, but on the other I'm having more fun and getting more enthused about my novel The Work than I have about any other project I've worked on, which is saying something...

The prospect of writing a horror novel is what's driven me, finally, to get my characters right. Not that SF or fantasy need good characters less (perish the thought), but to quote Stephen King, "You've got to love the people... that allows horror to be possible." At some level I know that if I fail to allow the readers to get into the characters, then when things begin to go bump in the night and the knives come out it'll fall flat in some measure, and that's death for horror, probably more than any other genre I can call to mind.

So, I've finally completed in-depth sketches for my four main characters. I need to do some brief reshuffling of the plot outline I have (thanks to knowing more about the characters, their motivations and needs than when I first did the outline), and then, probably tonight, I'll finally begin laying down prose.

Can't wait. The plot, as I tweeted the other night, is no longer by any stretch the scariest thing. I'm worried for my characters, now. How awesome is that?

-Rich

PS. Many thanks, by the way, to the people at literatureandlatte.com for including good project templates in the shipping version of Scrivener for Windows 1.0: there are many, many, many ways to write a character sketch, and one way is probably as good as another, but your inclusion of the sketch template in the Novel blank-project gave me an excellent place to start. Well done.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

On Technology and Creative Friction

I've spent a fair amount of time this week, between plot outlining and character sketching for The Work (which is going outstandingly, thanks very much), refurbishing an old Dell Inspiron B130 laptop of Amy's. It's 2006-vintage with upgraded memory, which means it's a very competent Windows XP box. I'm typing on it now.

It's got a 15" screen and weighs several pounds, which is gargantuan by today's featherlight standards of netbooks, 13-inch Macbook Airs and "ultrabook" PCs. I do have a netbook which is doing yeoman's work as a primary machine (thanks to its capacious hard drive), but its keyboard, while usable, isn't quite big enough for fast or accurate typing with my big mitts.

I did need to replace the Dell's keyboard, though, which brings me to the subject of the post. Whether through heavy use or simple age, the Dell's original keyboard had become stiff and reluctant to recognize keypresses. Luckily Amazon offered a replacement for $10, which arrived yesterday. Yank the battery, pop a panel, unscrew the old keyboard, install the new, and suddenly the laptop types like a dream. Now that I've stripped off all the gnarly mid-decade software and run through Microsoft's patching gauntlet, it's become a quite respectable and comfortable word processing computer. So comfortable, in fact, that I may well make this computer my primary writing machine.

The Dell's 15" screen and full-size keys are like coming home: I used to use an old (2004-vintage) Mac Powerbook G4 for writing, but I let Apple OS-revise it into senescence: I really should have kept it on OS X Tiger, but wiping it and going back would be too much grief, now. Windows XP, by contrast, is still getting patched, still supports most Windows software (most notably Google Chrome, MS Word 2010 and Scrivener for Windows), and runs like greased lightning on cheap old hardware like this.

It's surprising the difference that a good keyboard and working environment can make for smooth writing. The netbook's screen is just a little too small, its keyboard a smidgen too cramped for comfort, which makes a big enough difference that I'd been using the netbook plugged into an external flatscreen and keyboard just to make it palatable. With the Dell, that's not an issue: despite weighing nearly double what the netbook does, I've been happily typing with the full-sized laptop on my lap-desk all morning, while I would have moved off onto the plugged-in desktop and its less-comfy chair by now with the netbook.

I know: first-world problems, right? Still, I try never to let little stuff serve as an excuse not to write, but getting the little stuff right can really help out by making writing just that much more pleasant and distraction-free.

-Rich

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Thoughts and a Request: Nanowrimo Postmortem; Plunging into the Worlds of Horror and the Weird

Well, Nanowrimo didn't work out: November kicked my posterior this year, but the ways it did so were for the most part unpreventable and only slightly foreseeable, so I don't feel but so bad  about it. I fell out of love with my concept about midmonth, too, which didn't help.

However, my falling out of love came largely because of a new enthusiasm: horror and weird fiction. In the run-up to Halloween this year, as I mentioned a few posts ago, the guys in the Magic City Writers group suggested that I look into horror writing, since I enjoyed our spooky/creepy exercises so much.

The more I think about it, my very tactile, very description-heavy style might well lend itself to horror/weird. I'm already a China Miéville fan, and some of the Dean Koontz and Stephen King I've read has been quite compelling. So, I've been buying up all the Kindle horror I can find/afford (and putting the rest on my Christmas wish lists), and I've begun a search for my much-neglected (and buried in my recent office renovation) copy of Vandermeer's anthology The New Weird, which along with comprehensive Poe and Lovecraft anthologies, ought to give me a suitably diverse place to start as I try to build up my literacy in these areas.

I've already got a few story ideas percolating to get started: as I produce prose I'll air some of it here, but I fully expect to be raw and stumbling for a while as I discover which ends are the pointy ones.

So, the request, for those who've read this far: in the comments, if you have favorite horror or weird-fic authors or titles, please recommend them! I need to read as widely and as deeply as I can, so I'm inclined to try a little bit of everything while I find my feet. Thanks!

-Rich

Thursday, November 17, 2011

11,496 words! Still behind, but having fun. [WIP]

Feeling a little thin, plotwise, today. So tonight I decided to have a drink or two, put on SiriusXM Octane, and go for descriptive lushness.

And now, WIP for you:

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Progress Again: 9,494 Words and Counting [WIP]

November continues to be a month of multifarious obligations and unexpected tasks. Nevertheless, I persevere. I'm way behind on word count, but I will continue to forge onward. The point of it is to keep going!

And now, today's Work In Progress:

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Back in the Saddle After Much Hard Riding [WIP]

7,176 words total, as of this evening. Dragging tail, energywise, after several days of heavy output, but we keep going, because we must! Onward!

And now, your Work In Progress excerpt:

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Word count is at 6,032: behind, but catching up [WIP]

Have had several crazy days in a row, and wound up not getting anything written last night due to complete brain fatigue failure, but tonight I slammed 2500 words down, and will continue doing that or better until I'm back at pace.

By the end of tomorrow night the NaNoWriMo benchmark is 10,000 words, and I've got another full day working with Amy in her henna booth scheduled tomorrow, so it'll be tight, but it's the end of Daylight Saving Time, so I'll have another hour's stamina to burn. I'd love to get 4,000 words written tomorrow evening. Wish me luck!

And now, some WIP from this evening's efforts:

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Another 849 words tonight; some WIP to tide you over, though

I'm a fair bit shy of my daily goals lately, but it's been that sort of week. Tonight was gym night, and as a result I'm the kind of tired that makes it hard even to type well. :-)

Still, any progress is better than no progress, and I have this coming weekend to make up word count, in the gaps between the event I'm helping Amy cover with her henna business. I also resolved an issue with my remote-desktop software on my home PC, so it will be much easier to write over my lunch hours from now on.

And now, to bed. But first, some work-in-progress:

A bit shy today (2,685 total), but I blame my full schedule. [Long WIP, too]

Had a Dia de los Muertos celebration to attend today, and wound up unable to get anything NaNo done over lunch.

Still, I think tonight's 800+ words were worth the trouble, and highly informed by the "Day of the Dead" mood of the evening. A lengthy sample of it follows, after this section break.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

NaNoWriMo Day One in the Can! (Also: WIP)

1,744 words, better than the minimum-per-day of 1,677. Not a punishing pace, but a good start. They say that the first casualty of war is the battle plan, and that's certainly the way it's working out for me. The way I wanted the story to start is not exactly the way it's going, but that's okay!

I'm making great use of a Mur Lafferty tip this year: the placeholder. It's amazing how much leeway and momentum one can preserve by simply writing [scene where this other bit happens I don't want to think about right now] and keeping going. Great stuff.

Okay, work-in-progress excerpt:

NaNoWriMo Countdown is Ticking!

I've been outlining and brainstorming all evening for the writing marathon (or chain of sprints... whichever) that is NaNoWriMo. I'm quite pleased with my story concept and character sketches so far (great artist steal...), and to boot, I'll be blogging here about my progress and thoughts as close to every day as I can.

This novel, tentatively titled Vitium Renata, will mark both my first novel-length foray into fantasy, as well as my first attempt at working up a fully-fledged magic system.

What it will not be, though, is an exploration of something I discovered at this past weekend's Magic City Writers group meeting, which is that I may have a real gift for writing horror, or at least the ability to derive a lot of fun and pleasure from the process. I will definitely be trying my hand at some horror stuff after NaNoWriMo has ended. Just in time for Christmas!

After the break, a little rough horror scene I did at the prompting of Kathryn, who was driving the 10-minute writing exercises that day. Be warned: it's gross!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Prep for NaNoWriMo

The office is painted and furnished (mostly), the Big Drumming Gig is behind me (finally), and November approaches (inevitably). I have several ideas and concepts in mind for the novel I want to write for NaNoWriMo, and I've begun getting them recorded, in mind-map and outline form. Exciting!

I'm going to be author-blogging more frequently, too: now that I'm moving distractions out of the way, I'm free to focus better around here.

Should be a blast. More to come!

-Rich

Friday, October 7, 2011

Progress on the Office; NaNoWriMo on the Horizon!

It's been a busy few weeks of late, between a full work schedule, lots going on around the house, and other aspects of Life Getting in the Way, but matters proceed apace.

I've managed to get the office cleaned out and painted, as visible here, and tomorrow I'll be moving a chair and a desk into the room, as well as hunting down a flat-panel monitor and desk chair so I can begin to get the room suitable for use in serious writing...

...Which is good, because this year I've decided (with Amy's blessing) to participate in NaNoWriMo again! For those who might not know, during the month of November of any year, participants in NaNoWriMo try to write a 50,000-word novel from scratch. It doesn't have to be good; it doesn't even have to be coherent. But it needs not to have any preexisting text written (though outlines are fine, if you swing that way), and to measure at least fifty thousand words by machine count before midnight, December 1 in your home time zone.

The goal is to teach participants that they can produce in quantity, and to overcome being intimidated by the magnitude of the task, since that's one of the most daunting aspects of novel writing for a beginning novelist. My prior efforts have peaked around 35,000 words, but I've made a lot of progress in terms of my mental writing "stance" since those old attempts, and I feel like 1,667 words a day ought to be no problem this time around, especially with the practice that Magic City Writers has given me.

The no-existing-text thing means that I'm going to have to let Oasis and Darwin Colossus lie fallow during November, but that'll probably be good for them in the long run. I have the skeleton of a post-apocalyptic story idea rattling around in my head that should do nicely as NaNo-fodder.

So, to sum up: I'm excited! I have a dedicated writing space, a new project, and NaNoWriMo participation to look forward to. I'll post more as things start to fall into place.

-Rich

Twitterfeed test

Had a glitch with Twitterfeed URLs pointing to a bad location within the new Blogger. Giving this another try.

-Rich

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Office Cleanup, Belated Work-In-Progress Excerpt

Tonight I begin work on renovating my office, which is naturally the place I do most of my writing. Sadly the room has become completely impacted with junk and other household overflow over the years, so the time has come to fix it. Tonight I'll be throwing out all the trash I can, making it available for the neighborhood's curbside pickup service, and this Saturday I have a truck coming for the stuff that I'll be donating: ancient computers, a too-big table, my old computer desk, several CRT monitors. To replace of all of that: a small writing desk, and just enough networking and computer equipment to keep everything running. I'm absurdly excited to be getting my room back, and Amy and I have extensive plans for how we want it to look once all the crap is gone. Having a clean, spare creative space will be a real help.

Not much to report lately, aside from this past week's Magic City Writers group meeting being helpful and productive.

Now, as promised, a segment from the rough draft of Oasis, my current work-in-progress:

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Once Again Generating Prose

The deadline for submission to the Magic City Writers Group is nearly here, and my stuff is next on the critiquing block. I've been slamming text down for the first chapter as fast and well as I can. Once I get things to where I'm happier with them I'll post some work in progress, but for now I'm in very rough-draft mode. I'll be editing Friday night, so expect it then.

Feels good to be producing again. Also good to have the rest of my life handled enough to be able to do so. Going for a completely different prose style with this one, much more sparse and fast-moving. We'll see how well I do.

-Rich

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Sometimes Life Backs Up On You

Aye, it's true. Between home stuff, work stuff, gym time, reading for Magic City Writers, writing my own stuff and composing (drum pieces for a Middle Eastern ensemble I play with), I'm overbooked, overworked and underslept. Blah.

This obviously means I need to do some focusing and prioritizing. A cluttered headspace is one that's nearly impossible to accomplish anything with.

-Rich

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Much Happening, Under Cover of Silence

Fret not, work proceeds apace!

First, I'm taking some time away from Darwin Colossus. Some distance from the manuscript, along with all the notes I have on it, regarding changes both implemented and pending, will be good for the story, and for me. It's certainly possible to focus too much on an individual piece.

Next, I'm on to a space opera novel (!) working-titled Oasis. Don't want to give away too much just yet, but I've got it mind-mapped, plotted and character-sketched six ways from Sunday, and will begin writing soon: I've only got about a month before I've got to have at least a piece ready for critique at the Magic City Writers group.

Last, I've been encouraged to see my favorite authoring application, Scrivener, in the process of its port from the Mac world to Windows/Linux. I'm using Linux for my home machine these days (with a Windows XP computer virtualized, for access to my copy of Microsoft Word, natch), and seeing an official Scrivener port appear (currently in public beta at the link above) is balm to my soul. I've been using the beta for a while now, and it's progressing very nicely. Ever since decommissioning my old G4 Powerbook (yeah, that old), I've missed Scrivener, and it's great to see it becoming available again!

Until next time.

-Rich

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Progress Report

Hello! Not to worry, there's lots going on. I've collected feedback from almost all my beta readers, and had another round with the writers group, and I have a lot of feedback to incorporate into Darwin Colossus.

Several readers commented that they wanted more of the story, which is good, but also tricky, because the piece's already 1,000 words over-length for a short story. More than likely the thing to do is dial back some of the description, and then see what's possible in terms of giving readers what they're looking for. Tightness of prose and pace is generally a good idea anyhow. The intent is to start submitting this to paying online 'zines and the like once this round of edits is done, so it's time to plunge into them!

-Rich

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A Banner Weekend

It's not precisely writing-related, but this past weekend (May 7th and 8th) was a particularly good one. First off, it was my birthday, so that's awesome right there, but even given that, some particularly great things happened, largely through the efforts of Amy, my loving, supportive and all-around awesome wife.

Besides, living as a writer also means getting out in the world and refilling one's creativity from all the cool stuff out there. So, enjoy with me!

New Ink!
Scorpion Ink

This is my first tattoo. I've been wanting one, and Amy and I have been talking about what to get me, for a few years now. This design is what I picked. By way of explanation: in some of India's lore, the scorpion is akin to the western Greek concept of Cupid and his arrows, stinging unexpectedly and to great romantic effect. The rings on the scorpion's sting are Amy's engagement-and-wedding ring set. And green is her favorite color. :-D

I'm very happy with how it looks above, fresh from the needle on Friday night. The tattoo is in the middle of its healing process right now, and thus looking pretty rough as it scabs and peels. I'll post another picture when it's healed to its final form!

New Car!
Altima the Second
I posted back in 2007 about a scary accident I had, and then about the cheapie car Amy and I bought to keep me mobile. Well, Gladys the Mercury Mystique is about aged out (especially being a rebadged late-90's Ford), and after much planning and some very good fortune, we've been blessed with Chip, the Reborn 2003 Altima! ("Blue Chip," get it?) It's a much nicer and safer car, runs much better, is several years newer, and was originally built more solidly. It should last for years to come, barring any misadventures of 2007's ilk. It was delivered Sunday night, two days ahead of schedule.

Local Winery
Amy and I found a great local winery near our house in rural Alabama, and had a delightful brunch there. It may well become a haunt!

Progress
Finally, brainstorming continues apace on the next short story. I'm thinking it'll be a 19th-century alternate history in which the Germ Theory of Disease achieves ascendancy 50 to 75 years earlier. Lots to figure out, and lots of research yet to do. More updates soon!

-Rich

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Darwin Colossus Submitted to Beta Readers!

Hey everyone! Been a little while since my last post, but work has continued. I sent the story out to beta readers early (so very early) the morning of May 1st, and I wait with bated breath for their comments and replies.

Magic City Writers Group
Last night the group had its third-anniversary meeting, though I've only been a member for five months or so. I received a nice hand-painted mug with a writing quote I chose, and we did some more critiquing. A chapter from the group organizer's epic fantasy work was on the block last night, and it made for an involved and interesting evening.

I'm up next week, which means...

New Project
I'm actively brainstorming ideas for my next story. I kind of liked working bustles-and-waistcoats, so I'm leaning toward a "true" alt-history steampunk, maybe having to do with Pasteur, the Germ Theory of Disease and canned foods becoming available to the populace at large. Yeah, glamorous, I know. Might crash it into a story about 19th-century temperance movements, the fact that breweries were one of the big beneficiaries of Pasteur's attentions, and/or Phylloxera's savaging of the wine industry and absinthe's resulting spike in popularity. Dunno--maybe it needs some airships; perhaps a power struggle and revenge plot. Still brainstorming.

I'll need at least a decent first draft by Friday, May 13th to give the group time to do its critique reading, so if there's just no way to get it done by then I have the beta-reader revision of Darwin Colossus I can submit, which is significantly polished from when the group last saw it.

-Rich

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Genre Spelunking: That "Darwin Colossus" wound up Quasi-Steampunk

So. My first attempt at publish-worthy prose is steampunk, or at least the type that's Victorian-revivalist, set in a not-too-distant future. The original concept story I wrote a few years back was actually cyberpunk, in style as well as setting, but as I began reworking it, weeks and weeks back, I felt like it needed something to give it flavor and offer some small basis for a social dimension. Thus "Proxy Bloodsport" became "Darwin Colossus."

Contacted My Prospective Beta Readers Today...

Sent out my "wanna participate?" email. Very interested to see who writes back in the affirmative.

-Rich

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Fitness, Mental and Physical

Went to the Magic City Writers group meeting last night, and the critique (not of my work this time, we rotate) was a bit more contentious than it's been in the past. Here's hoping it settles down for next time!

Tonight, in addition to (at long last) work on getting Darwin Colossus suitable for Beta Reader perusal, I'll be heading to the gym. I've been an avid follower of Tim Ferris's 4 Hour Body program, and it's worked well for me, both in terms of adding muscle mass, and reducing the relative stoutness of my tum. After the chaos of the past few months, Amy and I have returned to an exercise program, and we're flourishing for it.

Not coincidentally, I find it much easier to write (and to write well) when I'm doing a better job of taking care of my body. Mur Lafferty of I Should Be Writing podcast fame did a pair of episodes on the subject of staying healthy lately, and her advice is good--I highly recommend it.

I think there's something that needs saying on the subject of writerly mental health, too. Not just in the staying-out-of-the-rubber-room sense (important though that is), but in the sense of regulating one's input, one's "diet." One of the maxims of writing is that you have to do a lot of reading as well. Any writer planning on getting published needs to be familiar with the big authors, both historical and up-and-coming, in one's genre. Read a lot, and read widely. For that matter, listen to podcasts like I Should Be Writing and Writing Excuses regularly. Good advice I've heard is that for every hour you spend writing a day, you should try to spend at least an hour reading. You want to know the material you'll be both compared to and competing with, know the trends, know the tricks of the trade, and get a feel for what consumers of your product (because that's what it is, after all, if publishing is the goal) are expecting and demanding.

Another part of writerly head-health is attitude. As an example, it took me a long (long) time to get over my posture of scarcity toward my own work: "This is my Magnum Opus, my only golden perfect snowflake of an idea. If I screw it up, I'll never have another chance." The Writing Excuses guys, as well as just growing older and perhaps a little wiser, helped me through this, and now writing isn't nearly the angst-ridden chore that it used to be. Amy noticed (me sitting down to write used to herald great tension and grief in the house, which didn't give her or me much incentive to encourage it), and my output has improved hugely, both in qualitative and quantitative terms. An attitude of plenty ("I'm learning more and getting better at this all the time, and I've got great ideas spilling out of my head") has made all the difference.

Strive for health: the image of the starving, alcohol-addled writer suffering for his work in a garret may be romantic, but it's a hellacious way to make a living.

-Rich

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Life, In The Way; Current Reads

...I am not dead. I have not forgotten about anyone or anything. :-)

It's been a little dramatic the past pair of weeks, as things around the Miller household had to be put on hold for health and recovery reasons. That issue appears (touch wood) to be receding as a concern, so I'll be getting back into revisions and beta-reader mailings this week, and possibly weekend.

The next meeting of my local writing group is coming up next Wednesday, so I've also got to get the current piece read and critiqued. Gonna be a busy weekend!

I'm also going to start doing mentions of books I'm reading and/or enjoying, because a huge part of being a writer is being a reader as well. Here goes!

I snagged my e-copy of Patrick Rothfuss's The Wise Man's Fear right on release day (3/1/2011), and devoured it over the course of the next several days, which were too crazy-full to do any writing, but not so much as to preclude reading. I don't mind saying that I have a bit of a man-crush on Patrick Rothfuss: his previous book (his debut freaking novel) affected me more powerfully than anything else I've read in fiction. Thinking of some scenes still arouses strong emotion, and I've read The Name of the Wind something like five times. In any event, the emotional peaks of Wise Man's Fear weren't as stratospheric for me as in Name of the Wind, but the storytelling was at least as strong, showing that Rothfuss isn't/wasn't a fluke, or one-hit wonder. The one question I have left is how in the world the rest of the story, knowing what we know, can be tied up in the one volume of the trilogy Rothfuss has left? Can't wait for the final installment.

I'm currently listening (via Audible.com) to The Runelords, Book 1: The Sum of All Men, by David Farland. Farland's a new author for me, but his books were recommended strongly in a few episodes of Writing Excuses, so I had to check them out. Fascinating worldbuilding, and the story's definitely sucked me in.

Finally, I'm embarking on a reread of China Miéville's Perdido Street Station, an amazing novel, and one that's a bit of a touchstone for me. I love Miéville's writing: his wordsmithing, his worldbuilding, his theme play, philosophical groundedness, the whole gamut. Perdido Street Station is arguably the work Miéville's most famous for, though he's received a lot of well-deserved press lately for works like The City and the City and Kraken. John Scalzi, today, named Perdido Street Station his #1 novel of the past ten years (in lieu of his own most-famous work, Old Man's War, which recently won a Tor.com "#1 Novel of the Past Ten Years" poll). I completely agree with Scalzi on this: more than anything else I've read (including The Name of the Wind) I read Perdido Street Station (indeed, any Miéville) and think, "Hell's bells, I want to write like that!" His stuff is lush, challenging, fiercely intelligent, and oscillates between gutter-filth and transcendent glory with aplomb. Not a bad pole-star to sail by, though the trade route I follow must ultimately be my own.

More soon!

-Rich

Friday, March 4, 2011

Had a Great Time with the Magic City Writers Group!

Darwin Colossus got both great reviews and a thorough nitpicking on Wednesday night. It was a great time, and I'm very appreciative of the feedback. Thanks, everyone!

I have some thinking to do re: the story's structure, as well as clarifying some aspects of its flow: what happens when, to whom, and by what motivations certain characters make decisions. Sometimes it's hard to judge the balance one should strike between subtlety (implying) and barefacedness (demonstrating); when leaning too far to the subtle side, it's easy to confuse the reader.

Sorry for the sparseness of updates here lately: health challenges continue to complicate my home life, but it's all about keeping going!

I'm going to make a few of the more important clarity-related tweaks, then send Darwin Colossus out to my beta readers within the next week or so. I also have a few candidates for my next short story idea, and I'm going to flesh-out one of those into an outline/mind map not long after.

-Rich

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

"Darwin Colossus" ready for Group Critique

Went through another set of revisions tonight, and I think I'm about as far as I can go by the deadline for submission to Magic City Writers (tomorrow). The story still needs some tightening and unifying (especially the action scenes), but I'm reasonably pleased, and curious what the group has to say.

Whew! Been hard work, getting it all together, but I'm glad to have a group keeping me accountable!

Good night, all, and I'll report new stuff as it comes up. Probably time to start a new story, soon!

-Rich

Big Revision Day

Got well over half of a full first-draft revision done on Proxy Bloodsport (tentatively renamed Darwin's Colossi), as the in progress box shows. Not much else to say (or WIP quote), as it's late and I don't want to risk getting too sleep-deprived.

More tomorrow!

-Rich

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Finished Rough Draft of Proxy Bloodsport!

I was thinking it would be around 7,000 words and I finished up around 6,500, as you can see in my progress box to the right.

Next step: First Draft, which will be a complete going-over and tightening, editing for consistency, adding and subtracting (mainly subtracting, I anticipate) so that it'll be ready for a good going-over by the writing group here in town.

Speaking of which, yes, I got the chance to attend the Magic City Writers Group this past Wednesday (the 16th). It seems like a great group of people, committed to producing good fiction, and not afraid to give or take the nitpicks and critiques we all need to do so!

Now, WIP:

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

New WIP, and Status Report

It's been a trying few weeks, between illness in the house (a tenacious upper-respiratory bug that felled both me and Amy, in turn) and unexpected, apparently successful abdominal surgery for one of the family dogs (oy).

But writing must continue, and so I'm back on the horse as of tonight. Here's some WIP:

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Sick. Dadgummit.

I have gotten sick, and need to sleep before I get sick enough that I jeopardize this weekend's travel plans. More to come later. :-(

Word to the wise: artistic inspiration isn't a good enough reason to short yourself on sleep down to 4-ish hours a night for two weeks running. Oops.

-Rich

WIP, as Promised

Here's the work-in-progress excerpt, as promised.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Writing Group Ahoy!

I've found a writing group here in Birmingham! I'll post a link to them once I have a chance to attend my first meeting on February 1. I'm also moving from OpenOffice 3.3 to Microsoft Word 2010, for two reasons: A) the writing group does what it does with Word's change tracking mechanism, and OO Writer's change tracker is only mostly compatible, and B) Word, like it or not, is the industry standard, so using anything else is just asking for trouble later on. So: time to bite the bullet. I've installed Microsoft's Office Home 2010 60-day trial, to be purchased in full once I know all is well.

I've had various and sundry errands, obligations and projects to handle around the house lately, so writing progress isn't what I've been hoping for, but I've got some time to work tonight. I'll post a Work In Progress (WIP) excerpt later.

-Rich

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Drafting Continues

Been a tricky week for writing work. After overdoing it on the leg press machine this past Saturday, my back went out on Monday morning, and sitting for protracted periods was not-fun for a few days. Luckily I've healed up quickly, and have been making progress when I can. I've extended my target for Proxy Bloodsport (which might benefit from a rename) to 7,000 words, figuring I'll wind up editing back down to around 6,000 by the time I'm done, and in the quest to find or make a good place to sit properly, I managed to clear off my old computer desk: no more lap-desk drafting on the couch for me!

Anyhow, I'm off to bed. Onward!

-Rich

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Short Story: Proxy Bloodsport

This weekend I embarked on a rewrite of a short story I put together for the 2007 Dragon*Con Writers' Workshop, Proxy Bloodsport. What prompted me was making contact with a college friend who's been writing and submitting for a while now, and who was actually attending this year's Superstars Writing Seminars where some of my idols/models were in attendance.

Anyway, she immediately fired off an excellent sample of her writing (which had received mention in a national contest!) for me to peruse; when I looked at PB, hot and bothered to send it to her, well...it needed a rewrite, and badly: it no longer represented where I think I am as a writer.

So, I'm rewriting. Shan't post much here in the interim, because of course, writing time needs to be thrown at the work.

Ciao,

-Rich

Under Construction

This will be my blog. More to come...

-Rich