Inhuman Swill : Writing : Page 8

I'm a little startled every year to see how many people I know well show up on the Hugo ballot. Congratulations to you all, Charlie, Paolo, Cory, Toby, and everyone else!

But I want to give an extra huge shout-out to John Klima, whose excellent Electric Velocipede receives its first nomination this year, for Best Fanzine. It may seem odd that one of the increasingly fine and acclaimed short-fiction venues of this decade is recognized in the fanzine category, but that only speaks to the outsized mark it's been making on the field relative to its subscription base.

John's been a great champion of my short fiction over the years. I'm proud to have had stories in a good quarter of EV's issues, not to mention having had a chapbook published by his Spilt Milk Press. With a couple of World Fantasy Award nominations and now a Hugo nomination to his credit, I'm glad to see so many other people championing John's work.

And this news comes a week after John and Shai welcomed their second child, Easton Cade, to the family. It's a big week at the Klima household. Congratulations!

Full entry

Flogging "Flog"

| No Comments

Proper Manuscript Format Illustrated - Click here.
For well over a decade my manuscript formatting guide "Proper Manuscript Format" has been available online, with the result that I've fielded hundreds of questions on the subject from writers around the English-speaking world. For years now I've wanted to share those letters and my responses to them online, on the theory that for every question I receive there are probably ten times as many writers with the same question who don't email and would find the discussion helpful.

I've finally done somthing about it. My new, low-volume blog FLOG will feature my answers to readers' (and writers'!) questions about manuscript formatting, both newly received and mined from my email archives. Come on over and argue with us.

Full entry

Game play variations

| No Comments

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.

Full entry

The rules of the game

| No Comments

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.)

Full entry

Cubist writing

| No Comments

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.
Full entry

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.

Full entry

Do not touch the art!

| No Comments

So here at the WorkSpace, I've been writing a passage about a nanogoop-based painting that can fix itself if the image gets damaged. Here in the real world, there are some paintings with thick, ridged lines of textured paint on display in the hallway, and as I was walking to the kitchen for a glass of water just now I was tempted to grab one of the ridges and snap it off—like my protagonist had just done to his painting in my story. This is why I shouldn't be allowed near a keyboard. Or maybe near art.

Full entry

How the professionals do it

| 1 Comment

Some questions for you other full-time writers out there. What are your work habits? How long a day do you write? Do you keep regular hours? Where do you work? How do you keep yourself going? What do you do when you get stuck?

I guess I'm not managing the transition well very yet, and I'm looking for some pointers.

Full entry

I found myself applauding Timothy Egan's guest column "Typing Without a Clue" from Saturday's New York Times. Not that I, as the author of a "riveting memoir" unsold "after 10 years of toil," feel any bitterness on the topic:

The unlicensed pipe fitter known as Joe the Plumber is out with a book this month, just as the last seconds on his 15 minutes are slipping away. I have a question for Joe: Do you want me to fix your leaky toilet?

I didn’t think so. And I don’t want you writing books. Not when too many good novelists remain unpublished. Not when too many extraordinary histories remain unread. Not when too many riveting memoirs are kicked back at authors after 10 years of toil. Not when voices in Iran, North Korea or China struggle to get past a censor’s gate....

With a résumé full of failure, he now thinks he can join the profession of Mark Twain, George Orwell and Joan Didion....

Full entry

"Retrogression" progression

| No Comments

Retrogression progression
I'm not one to announce my daily word count, but I will say that progress is beginning to be made. Today it was made at a Starbucks on Greenview after I got my B12 shot at the doctor's office. Yes, it turns out I have quite a B12 deficiency, which might explain the tingling I sometimes feel in my back and legs, not to mention my frequent fatigue and general lack of energy. I think it's too early to chalk today's productivity up to the vitamin boost, though.

Full entry
The Accidental Terrorist 30th Anniversary Sale

Signed editions
that even a
could afford.

Order yours now!

William Shunn