Friday, October 25, 2013

Got a question you want to hear me answer "live"? Now's your chance to ask...

I'm in full-on head-down-work-on-the-book mode, which should be good news for those of you anxiously awaiting The Labyrinth of Flame.  Scene outlining is continuing to work well for me, and I'm quite happy with my progress on the draft (hooray!).  I even have little fantasies of finishing this first draft by the end of November...but I know all too well how life can throw nasty curveballs into optimistic plans, so I hesitate to say it's anything more than a fantasy.  I do think I've an excellent chance of finishing the first draft by the end of the year, which has been my goal all along.  Reeeeallly looking forward to the part where I start revising, as that's my favorite type of writing.

My Labyrinth of Flame draft even got a little test drive this past weekend, as I read a section from Chapter 2 at MileHiCon.  I thought maybe nobody would show, as my timeslot was at the very end of the convention - but nope, some die-hard souls attended.  (Including the always-awesome Ian Tregillis - who earlier in the con read from his upcoming novel Something More Than Night, which looks to be terrific.  No surprise there; if you haven't read Ian's earlier Milkweed Triptych, you are seriously missing out. His skill with plotting is incredible.)  It's always tricky to read a section of a book 3 to an audience who hasn't read any of the previous books in the series, but I think it went okay.  (I get so hugely nervous before readings that I consider it a win if a) I don't faint or throw up, and b) nobody either falls asleep or leaves the room in disgust.)

Other highlights of the con included: sharing my own NaNoWriMo experience at the NaNo panel and seeing the excitement and enthusiasm of those who hope to try NaNo for the first time; expanding my TBR list by leaps and bounds upon hearing all the intriguing books mentioned by my fellow panelists at the "Fodor's Guide to Fairyland" panel; sitting next to Paolo Bacigalupi at the group author signing and hearing him discuss everything from the evolution of Chinese science fiction to how to get boys excited about reading.  Not to mention all the lovely conversations I had with other writers and SFF fans in hallways, at dinners, and between panels.  I'd try to mention names but I just know I'd accidentally leave someone out.  Suffice it to say the con was full of wonderful people!

Last but not least, I've been invited to be a guest on the Lady Business+ podcast - and the host (Renay) is taking questions in advance.  So if you've got any questions you'd love to hear me answer "live" - about my books, or anything else - now's your chance!  Email questions to thisisladybusiness (at) gmail (dot) com.  

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

MileHiCon Schedule

This coming weekend I'll be at MileHiCon, which is a terrific local SF con here in Denver.  Seriously, it's loads of fun: if you're in the Denver area, you should come.  One of the things I like best about it is the engagement of the fans - seems like panels are not only packed, but people are eager to interact and ask questions of the panelists.  The guests of honor are always great, too: this year they've got Catherynne Valente and Seanan McGuire (a.k.a. Mira Grant), plus Ian Tregillis as toastmaster.

I'm doing a signing, two panels, and a reading:

Fri Oct 18, 8pm: "Autograph Alley" signing

Sat Oct 19, 4pm: The What, When, How, and Why of NaNoWriMo, Wind River B

Sun Oct 20, 2pm: Fodor's Guide to Fairyland, Mesa Verde B

Sun Oct 20, 4pm-5pm: Reading (shared slot with Dana Bell)

I'm thinking I may read a short section from my draft of The Labyrinth of Flame at the reading.  Haha, I'm not sure if I'm sad that the reading is in the very last time slot of the convention or not.  On the one hand, always awkward to read to an empty room.  On the other hand, that way there's no reason to be nervous!

Oh yes, and while I'm at it, The Tainted City got two new lovely reviews:

And last but not least, I just have to say I was ridiculously thrilled to see both Sheri S. Tepper's Grass and Mark Helprin's Winter's Tale on John Scalzi's list of 10 SFF books that meant the most to him.  Both are ciminally under-read by SFF fans (though Winter's Tale at least got huge mainstream sales and acclaim, as Helprin is considered a mainstream literary writer).  What Scalzi says about both books is pretty close to how I feel (except on the subject of Winter's Tale, I could go on for PAGES about how stunning Helprin's prose is).  If you haven't read them, you should.  

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Hooray for scene outlining

So last week I said I was going to try outlining scenes before writing them in an effort to increase my writing speed.  I'm delighted to report that so far it's worked really, really well.  Since Monday of last week I've written over 10,000 words on Labyrinth of Flame - more than I managed all last month! - and this even though I was sick for several of the days and running on very little sleep.

Granted, these words are pretty rough in quality.  But they're not completely unusable, either - the flow of the story feels decent, and I find myself excited to keep pushing ahead (rather than dying to stop and revise).  I'm delighted that I seem to have at last found a balance between speed and quality that'll work for me in this first rough draft.

The funny part is, I'd tried this technique before back during the days I was slaving away on Tainted City, and it didn't work at all for me then.  I think because I hadn't found the right approach to the outline - I would either take so long to come up with a detailed one that I felt I might as well have just started writing the scene straight out, or else I'd write a list too vague to be useful.  The key that's made it work for me now is to outline only the part I know I'll find most difficult to write (usually either dialogue or details of action).  If I think through that first, then all the rest (description, etc) is easy to fill in when I sit down to tackle the scene.

Yet again, proof that every writer -  heck, even every book! - is different; and you've got to fiddle around and adapt and discover what works for you in the moment.

In other news, I'm looking forward to attending MileHiCon here in Denver the weekend after next (I'll post my schedule in a few days).  But here's the best news of all: some of the roads from Boulder up into the mountains have re-opened!  (Everything's been closed for ages due to flood damage.)  I'm totally thinking of ditching the keyboard for a hike this weekend.  Sadly, the fall color season in the high country is already over...but in honor of beautiful fall days in the mountains, I'll leave you with a couple pics from a previous Colorado autumn.  

Aspen near Brainard Lake (red aspen are my favorite!)

Aspen along the Peak-to-peak Highway west of Boulder

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Writing Faster, Writing Better

Weekend before last, I went to the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Colorado Gold conference.  It was my 6th year in a row attending, and just like the previous years, I had an excellent experience.  Haha, this year, I even managed to attend some actual panels instead of spending all my time in the lobby socializing! The best and most motivating of the panels for me was one on "Writing Faster, Writing Better" - something I felt in desperate need of advice on, as I've been struggling to make progress on The Labyrinth of Flame while having less time to write than I ever did on the previous 2 books.  (Damn do I miss the days when my son took a nice 1.5-hour afternoon nap!)

I'm happy to say I came away from the panel with a whole new slew of tricks to try.  Many of them are psychological - everything from picking a simple ritual to perform before every writing session (lighting a candle, listening to a single song, etc), to using a 20-min timer for writing spurts.  Others involve actual adjustments of your writing process.  I've decided to try one of these - the "scene outlining" approach.  (Author Rachel Aaron describes this in her "2K to 10K" approach.)  

Usually by the time I get to a scene, I know pretty much what I want to happen, so I've never tried outlining it in any detail before I write.  I just sit down and start typing, and work through the details of dialogue and action as I go.  Yet I've noticed recently I've been stopping a whole lot while writing to stare at the screen and think about those very details.  They *need* to be thought through, no question; if I just force myself to plow onward willy-nilly, then sure, I pump out words, but then they have to be completely rewritten later because the details are so far from right. Whereas if I sit down and work out all those details in advance of actually setting fingers to keyboard, I'm hoping I can write a far more useful draft version of the scene in far less time. 

I'm not entirely sure how much time this will save me.  Yes, if I work out details in outline form, I'm not trying to write them in prose that other people would read, so that obviously saves a bit of typing-deleting-retyping.  Maybe I can also save time if I think through the scene during other moments of the day (driving to/from work, eating, etc).  But the "thinking" part is always the part that takes me longest, and often I don't have a good grasp of how best to handle a scene until I've actually tried to write the prose and found it doesn't work the way I was originally thinking.  So we'll see!  But I'm a big proponent of "If something's not working, then make a change."  My current writing process isn't letting me make the progress I want.  Time to switch it up.

As part of that, I've decided to make a big wordcount push on Labyrinth of Flame in Oct & Nov.  Full speed ahead, no revision, always moving forward (while using scene outlining, etc, to try and keep the words I put down somewhat useful).  So consider this a heads-up: I'll be a bit scarce around these parts.  I'll post my schedule for MileHiCon when I get it, and I'm thinking of doing a brief post every Monday for my own benefit, to tally progress and see how things are working (and decide if I need to try different tricks out of the workshop bag).  But other than that, it's gonna be nose to grindstone, fingers to keyboard.  

I don't expect this push to let me reach the end of the draft - I'll probably need at least another month or two afterward - but I want to get much, MUCH closer than I am right now.  I remember how awesome it felt to write THE END on the first draft of The Tainted City.  It can be summed up pretty much like this:

Sticking the landing on my final axel while competing at Adult Nationals a few years back. I'd fallen on that jump a million times (nothing harder than landing a jump at the very end of your program, when your legs are exhausted).  That time I made it - and won gold.  (Woo hoo!)
So here's hoping I can move the happy day for The Labyrinth of Flame a whole lot closer.  Fingers crossed!