Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Final score

It's November 30th. Pencils down, everyone. Here's my SSWriMo final score:

30 days
3 stories (2 sci-fi, 1 fantasy)
20,084 words

I made it (just)!

Later this week, hopefully, a debrief post. Then I think I want to say a few words about The Quantum Thief, by Hannu Rajaniemi.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Infodumping, done wrong?

I've just started reading a science fiction novel by a very successful author who will go unnamed. The first fifty pages are pretty infodumpy. That's fine -- you often need to explain how stuff works in science fiction books. The trick is finding a way to do so that makes sense at the time, so it doesn't really feel like infodumping.

So a scientist in the book just said the following, talking about a genetically engineered organism:
"The temperature they encounter outside means they don't have a particularly fast metabolism, which makes their physical motion correspondingly slow. Their blood is based on glycerol so they can keep moving through the coldest ground without freezing solid."
The problem I'm having here is that she was talking to a group of kids aged nine to twelve. Not savants, either, just ordinary kids. It's been a long time since I was twelve years old, but I feel like those sentences would have been pretty meaningless to me back then.

Am I underestimating your average nine to twelve year old, do you think? Or just overestimating the average scientist's ability to talk to them?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Single villain seeks devious plan

12,939 words written (target: 16,000)

Good day today. I wrote 1756 words on a fantasy story that currently has no name. It seems to be flowing well, but I've already identified a problem that I'm going to need to fix when I come back to edit: I don't know what the villain is doing. Or, I suppose, I know what he's doing but I don't know why he's doing it.

It's not a problem that is stopping me from writing the story, but I'm guessing that when the whole thing is done the villain is probably not going to be very compelling. 

Hero (anguished): why are you doing this, you dastardly fiendishly evil monster?!

Villain (smug): because I'm dastardly, fiendish and evil! Also, a monster! Also, behold my death trap!

Yeah, not ideal.

As you can tell by the word count above, I'm still behind. It's going to be a crunch to get this done by the end of November -- 1267 words a day, for the next 6 days -- but I'm going to give it my best. You probably won't hear from me again until it is done and dusted.

And then, hopefully, I'll have some time for some more interesting content!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

I finished a story!

8203 words written (target: 12,000)

I just now finished the first of my SSWriMo stories. It's called 'Beacons'. I'm pretty pleased with how it ended. When I first came up with this story idea, I had the ending pretty clear in my head. I didn't plan how to get there, just wrote, and I finished up basically where I hoped I'd be. That's cool.

It feels alright, finishing one of these stories. Better than alright, actually. Now it gets shelved, at least until the end of the month, and I go on to something else. I've got 11,797 words to write if I'm going to meet my goal, so that means my new daily target is 983 words.
You know what? This is pretty fun!

(Probably boring to anyone reading this blog, though. Sorry about that!)

Friday, November 12, 2010

SSWriMo Day 12

5801 words written (target: 8000)

Has it really been nine days since I last posted here? Sorry about that.

I'm behind. About three and a half days worth of words behind. I'm beginning to suspect that November isn't the best time of the year for us southern hemisphere-types to do something like NaNoWriMo. It's Spring here, and Spring is busy. Mostly because there's sunshine again. If this were a northern hemisphere Autumn, I'm sure my social life would be getting ready to hibernate, rather than exploding. 

That isn't an excuse, though. It's about making time, and I haven't given up yet. I've had a bit of success writing in my lunch hours; the last three days I've managed to hit my targets using that time and a few stolen minutes before bed. I'm confident that when I can find a few days with nothing else on, I'll be able to catch up those missing 2199 words.

The not-a-neutron-star story is still rolling along. I'm working my way towards a conclusion. I suspect by the time it's done it will be novelette length (more than 7500 words, less than 17500), but there's a lot of fat that will need to be trimmed. A whole lot. The discovery writing has been fun, but I suspect the tone isn't particularly consistent, and there are probably characters wandering in and out without much underlying logic. I've only just now got an inkling of how to work my way from the middle bit to the end bit.

I said last time that I was looking forward to the prospect of editing, and I still feel that way. I'm taking that as a good sign, but I'm not letting myself stop and do any of that this month. The goal remains to get 20,000 words worth of stories finished, no matter how crappy they are. Fixing them up can come later.

Anyway, enough about me. What have you been doing?

(Also, I'm saving up some content for non-SSWriMo blog posts for when I've got more time. Remind me to talk to you about Hannu Rajaniemi's Quantum Thief, Jay Lake's Green (a fantasy novel -- ooooh!) and the TV show Stargate Universe.)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

SSWriMo Day 3

2093 words written (target: 2000)

It's day three of my SSWriMo challenge, and I feel like I've already learned some things. I've started with a hard SF story, about the first expedition to see a neutron star up close. The 'crew' of this mission are a bunch of uploaded astrophysicists, their brains running on the computer hardware crammed into an otherwise fully-automated coke can-sized probe. When they get to their goal, they're in for a surprise.

I picked this one because it's the idea closest to the oft-repeated piece of advice: write what you know. I haven't had a whole lot of time to sit in front of the keyboard over the last few days, but I've had no difficulty reaching the target number of words (666 a day). The quality of the words, sadly, is pretty low. It's not that they're all that bad, they're just meandering. Laser-focused this story is not.

The folks on the Writing Excuses podcast split writers into two (non-exclusive) categories. Outliners write detailed story outlines. Discovery writers start with characters, a situation, and maybe an idea about the ending, and just start writing. I figured I was probably from the first category, so I thought I'd start by trying to discovery-write a story.

On the one hand, I think the meandering suggests that I was right; I should be spending some time coming up with story outlines. On the other hand, I'm actually quite excited by the idea of revising. It feels like by the time I've written the whole wandering mess out, I'll be much clearer on what the story is about, and I can get down to tearing it apart and making it better.

For now, though, I'm just going to push through. This whole SSWriMo thing is about turning off my internal editor for a little while, and getting something down on paper. Onward!