Writing and Other Afflictions

"If it was easy, everyone would do it." –Jimmy Dugan, "A League of Their Own"

Tag Archives: writing


Well, I failed to get to number one in the Bond songs, pretty spectacularly at that. I’m now in Kansas at the James Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction, with seven other workshoppers and Kij Johnson and Barbara Webb at Kij’s novel workshop. It’s been very instructive after only one day, and today we jump into actually workshopping people’s novels. I go Thursday and am already rethinking my novel outline, although I haven’t yet gotten to the point of rewriting it.

Kansas is beautiful, also hot and humid. The people here are lovely and I am having a blast talking about writing.

More Bond flash fics when I get back in a couple weeks.


Five Things About Characters

This other guy, who often says just what I’m thinking (somehow…I’m sure you smart people can figure it out), has written a post about writing characters that I think might be of general interest to people. People who read this blog, anyway.

Also, you guys should read John Scalzi’s Redshirts because it is amazing, and also Kim Stanely Robinson’s 2312 because it is fantastic. I voted for one of those in the Hugo Awards. I am pretty sure one of them will win.

Goal Reached!

After five weeks and one day, I reached my Clarion Write-A-Thon goal of 60,000 words. This included a 25-day road trip during which we visited two branches of our family, attended three conventions (one of which, Comic-Con, lasted an entire week), visited five cities, and stayed in six different hotels. Below, in case it is of interest, is my word count reached per day. Note that my Write-A-Thon page claims I only wrote 17 days, but I just forgot to log in some times. There were days I only got a couple hundred words in, but over 29 days of writing I averaged just over two thousand words a day. The most I got in a day was 4,121, and that was the day we flew from Boston to San Diego, so most of that was on an airplane. The fewest I wrote in a day when I wrote something was 144. You’ll notice the gap between 7/17 and 7/22; that was Comic-Con. (Also, I’m not sure what’s up with the word count on the 4th; I may have just written nothing that day but recorded it anyway.)

So yeah. NaNoWriMo, eat your heart out.

6/23: 2061

6/24: 4615

6/25: 7170

6/26: 10011

6/27: 12571

6/28: 15127

6/29: 15674

6/30: 17732

7/1: 18097

7/2: 20819

7/3: 23420

7/4: 23582 (morning), 24726

7/5: 24726

7/6: 24870

7/8: 25374

7/9: 26782

7/10: 28482

7/11: 31551

7/12: 34121

7/14: 34722

7/15: 38843

7/16: 41137

7/17: 42620

7/22: 44107

7/23: 46677

7/24: 49229

7/25: 51839

7/26: 55100

7/27: 57622

7/28: 60204

299 Years To Go

…until we reach the future of Kim Stanley Robinson’s 2312, or at least that calendar year. If Robinson’s book follows the trend of other books predicting the state of the world in certain years, then (NSA scandal aside, Orwell fans), probably the world of 299 years from now will not resemble the world in his book. And that’s a shame.

What I think I can say pretty confidently is that even if the world looks nothing like Robinson’s fantastic future of bubble worlds, cities on rails, experimental bodies, planetary ring-surfing, crater-sized art, and ultra-smart AIs, the people will be very much like his people. They will be bold, artistic, introverted, curious, loving, cruel, desperate, longing, confused, compassionate, social, secretive, and in every other way as human as we are, as the people who lived in 1712 were. Robinson has always had a firm grasp on what humans are like, as well as the questions we all repeatedly ask ourselves, and that experience lies at the heart of 2312.

And what a big heart it is. Played out against the canvas of our solar system in a rich, broad palette, the story nominally follows 130-year-old Swan’s attempt to deal with her grief over losing her grandmother Alex, and then her attempt to find out more about her grandmother’s secret project. Other “agents,” friends of her grandmother, contact her, and together they piece together what Alex was trying to keep off the computers while Swan seeks out company and then rejects it, attempting to give voice to the confusion and loneliness she feels (which sometimes, paradoxically, is best soothed by retreating from all other humans).

The plot and world share Robinson’s love of intricate complexity and yet remain highly accessible to the reader. I found “Red Mars” engaging but ultimately too dense and not quite my cup of tea; “2312” is possibly a longer book but it flows more easily, skipping ahead and enticing the reader to follow along with the promise of new delights on the next page. It’s the kind of book that makes me wish I could write it, and at the same time it seems to tell me that it’s okay that I can’t.

I have read a few of Kim Stanley Robinson’s books (“The Wild Shore” was one of my favorite books for several years). I also had the good fortune to meet him briefly a couple years ago, but honestly, I think I know him better from his books than from one evening of conversation in a group. And “2312” is very much his book. It demonstrates a capacity to think and imagine, to follow details and trends, to imagine humans playing in a sandbox the size of the solar system and yet playing the same games we have played for centuries, games of power and romance. And underneath it all is the sense of how much the author cares about people, about our Earth, about our future, and how much he wants it to succeed. It is a very optimistic book, and a joyful one. And although it starts with a death (not an uncommon theme), it celebrates life.

So when I say I wish I could write a book like this, I mean that I am envious of the skill and concentration and imagination on display in its pages. But knowing Robinson through his other works, I know that these are his gifts, not necessarily mine. But what this book urges me to do is to write the best book that is still my book, that embodies the qualities I cherish and highlights the things I do well. And I think that is not just my reading into the story; that message is there on its pages. Each of us can excel at being ourself, and no matter what tools we are given to express that, the job falls to us to use them the best way we can. So I came away from it a bit envious, yes, but also smiling and hopeful.

“2312” is beautiful, touching, sad, and inspirational. It will take you a while to read, even if you read it on several plane flights and then in your hotel room trying to get over jetlag. But you will be glad you did.

The Seeds of Writing

I might have been predisposed to write from an early age. My mother (who is on my mind today) gave me a blank book to write a story in at the age of…seven, perhaps? Eight? She read to me, shared not only books she liked but books she thought I would like, and helped me explore my interests in whatever direction they branched. She was not a fan of science fiction and fantasy, but when I showed an interest in it, she helped me find good books–“The Dark Is Rising” series came from her, and Narnia, and Prydain–and then let me go off on my own.

I was fortunate enough to be exposed to creativity and writing at an early age, and in high school, I had a couple friends who shared at least a love of F/SF books with me. After college, I tried to recover that sense of community in writing again. It took a while, but in the late 90s I met some other writers online, including Jeff Eddy, with whom I founded Sofawolf Press. And in the mid-2000s, in the Bay Area, I met a small group of writers who have really helped me rediscover that community.

I think that writing, in a way, is my continuing quest to maintain that connection with other people, to rediscover the sense of wonder I had growing up when I read those books and shared them with friends. That I’ve been able to forge connections and close friendships via my writing is really a tribute to the foundation laid early on in my life, with the very first friend I shared stories with.

Lots of my friends have children now, and because I have a lot of awesome friends, I am seeing a lot of children having those same kinds of foundations laid. It makes me happy, and hopeful, and excited for the future.

The Life of Lee

Perseverance. It’s often the last ingredient in a successful career, after talent, practice, and passion. Here, Elizabeth Bear links to another post that describes that process for 2012’s Best Director Ang Lee, and adds her own insight.

Me, I’m still on that road, about ten or so years into Taking Writing Seriously. Maybe fifteen depending on how you measure it. But yeah, it’s comforting to know that the stack of rejections I’m accumulating is the norm and not the exception.

Summer Write-A-Thon!

The Clarion Foundation holds a Write-A-Thon every summer in which writers solicit sponsors to raise money for Clarion, which lets them put on their excellent programs. I’m participating this year, and next week they will start taking donations. The money goes to a great cause and I promise I will be writing some awesome stuff this summer.

So if you’ve got twenty bucks or so to spare, keep it handy for next week and I’ll post more as we get closer to the start! It runs concurrently with the Clarion workshop, so from the last week of June to the first week of August.

Sending Out Stories

Two stories went out today. One submission to Shimmer, and one final edit to FurPlanet’s ROAR anthology on “Chasing the Spotlight.”

“Chasing the Spotlight” was written about six? seven? years ago, and though the editor liked it, he said (rightly) that the way it handles news reporting was very dated. He suggested a number of places in which it might be updated, and I started trying to fix it, but that proved to be too annoying. So I just rewrote it.

I like it a lot better now, and the word length stayed approximately the same, so I think it all worked out. We will see what Buck thinks of my edits. :)

It feels good to be getting back to short stories. I now have two stories out, where I think we were told we should always keep three in the market. Looking up at my post-it board, I have ten stories in various stages of pre-production. One is sold and two are out, so that means I need to do something with the other seven.