Inhuman Swill : January 2009

Game play variations

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Chapter 2. Coffee Chicago
For the advanced player, you can up the stakes of the novel game I outlined yesterday. Instead of having an absolute page number as a predetermined goal for each day's play, you can set each day's goal to be the previous day's ending page plus three. This way, if your day's goal was 33 and you stretched all the way to 35, your next day's goal would end up being 38 instead of 36.

I may get there later in the book, but for now I'm sticking with the absolute goals. In the middle of February I will spend a week traveling to places like Orlando and Milwaukee, and I plan to try to get far enough ahead by then that I don't have to worry about working full bore that week.

If you read between the lines of the previous two posts, you'll see that I was supposed to start writing the novel on Monday but didn't actually get underway until Tuesday. On Monday I ended up going back to a novelette I completed recently and extended it by a couple of pages. That's okay. I didn't quite catch up to where I was supposed to be on Tuesday, but yesterday I had a good run and not only caught up but gained a couple of pages. Finishing Chapter 1 put me on the middle of page 11. I read the chapter to Laura after her marathon-training run last night, and she said if she'd read it in a bookstore she would have had to buy the book and keep going.

This morning I bought a whole mess of 3x5 cards in different colors, tabbed 3x5 dividers, and a little 3x5 filing box. I'm making notes on characters, worldbuilding elements, and plot points, and filing everything by chapter. The terror of Chapter 1 is past, only to be replaced by the greater terror of Chapter 2.

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The rules of the game

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Maybe a lot of writers are like this, but I find it almost impossible to maintain forward momentum on a project as big as a novel without breaking the process down into manageable chunks. If I tell myself I need to write a complete novel in three or four months—panic! But if I tell myself I need to write three pages of a novel every day, well, that's seems pretty reasonable.

So I've created myself a calendar and given myself a set of rules. The calendar started on January 26, and the note for that day says "3." The note for January 27 says "6." The note for today says "9," and so on. The calendar extends all the way to May 15, the note for which says "330."

The rules are pretty simple. It's kind of like football, in fact. Every day I start at the line of scrimmage, which is wherever I left off the day before, and write at least until the cursor reaches the page with that day's number. It doesn't matter if I actually type anything on that page or not. As long as the cursor reaches that page through legal game play, I'm safe. That can either be accomplished by writing all the way to the end of a page naturally, or by reaching the end of a chapter and advancing automatically to the next page.

For bonus yardage and a bit of a kickstart, each new chapter starts halfway down the page. (You can see that this allows for things to start out easy on the first day. From halfway down page 1, it only takes a hair over a page and a half to get to 3.)

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Cubist writing

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I just did a word count on the novel I (to all intents and purposes) started writing yesterday. Here's what WordPerfect told me:

Words:  1000 Sentences:  64
Two perfect cubes. I'll bet that doesn't happen again for the remainder of the book.
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Hey, all you lucky folks in New York City! Get tickets and go see my good friend Laura Peterson's new show Forever at Dance New Amsterdam, running February 18-22. Here's a sample, exactingly performed to the music of Lumberob:

[direct link to video]

And all you lucky folks in Chicago, be sure to see Laura Peterson with Asimina Chremos in Verbatim at Links Hall, running February 6-8. Two stunningly talented dancers in an evening-length duet.

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New York, I miss you

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I loved this LCD Soundsystem song even before I saw the video, but now I love it even more.

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My first professional story, "From Our Point of View We Had Moved to the Left" (F&SF, February 1993), was set on Inauguration Day, 2009. Thank God the real 1/20/09 is an infinitely more hopeful occasion than the one in my story.

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Listen to my station on!

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The book of the long new year

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Many of you may have heard already, but John Klima has started an online book club dedicated to reading and discussing all twelve volumes of Gene Wolfe's Solar Cycle over the course of this year. I'm one of the board admins, together with Christopher Rowe and Mark Teppo.

If you're up for an ambitious reading project this year, please join us! Each month's novel should be read by the 20th in order to leave plenty of time for discussion. For January, the selection is of course The Shadow of the Torturer, and there are only six days left to read it. Fortunately, it's one of the shortest books in the series, so you shouldn't have much trouble keeping up.

For more information, and to sign up, please visit

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Featured Book

William Shunn

About This Archive

This page is an archive of entries from January 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

December 2008 is the previous archive.

February 2009 is the next archive.

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