tools of the trade (YMMV)

At A Dribble of Ink: Gravity’s Own Monster

Aidan Moher invited me to A Dribble of Ink to talk about sky-high worldbuilding. Here’s a peek, with a pointer to the rest…  

A few things to know before we set out:

First, we’re going up… and (maybe) down, so pack your chutes. Aidan asked me to write a post about worldbuilding in the air — a somewhat non-traditional fantasy setting — because of a few stories I have in the wind. I set both the short story, “A Moment of Gravity, Circumscribed,”1 out this month in XIII: Stories of Transformation (Resurrection House, March 2015), and my upcoming novel Updraft above the clouds.

Second: Gravity’s a tough mistress. I hope you checked that chute before you packed it. [Keep Reading at A Dribble of Ink…]

The view from Rainforest

I spent a few days writing without ice and snow last week. Also without much Internets. We had a weak WIFI signal, which made for many words, and an odd feeling of being disconnected on a global level, while very connected to my fellow writers. This was a very good thing.  Many thanks to Patrick Swenson and everyone at session 2 of the wonderful Rainforest Writers’ Village.

I gave a Deadlines 2.0 talk and I made deadline-apocalypse stickers for it… I have some extra. Might give away a few. Will give that a think.

Meantime: Picspam!

410,243

US Patent #410243 - An automatic grain weigher

US Patent #410243 – An automatic grain weigher

I try to spend a lot of time in these parts talking about people who are not me – from Cooking the Books features to keeping track of who I’m reading and what I’ve loved, to talking about tools of the trade and things I’ve learned that might be useful. (not to mention a few posts that are pure rantypants handwaving.)  But one thing I’ve done for the past couple of years that feels very different is an annual numbers / accountability post. I’m weighing whether to keep posting it. I’ll still track the numbers – it’s motivating to see progress and I will never fault a writer (including myself) for finding what motivation works for them. However, I don’t know if these numbers are useful for others to see. Let me know what you think? You might also drop in the comments and tell me what keeps you going – I’d love to hear about it.

This year’s big number is 410,243, or thereabouts. There’s still a day left.

  • 410243 is prime. This delights me.
  • On the web, #410243 is a lovely eggplant, or aubergine color.
  • US Patent 410243 is for an automatic grain weigher.
  • 410,243 is also the number of words I wrote in 2014, minus those I’ll write tomorrow. It includes all of Cloudbound, the sequel to Updraft; revisions to Updraft; revisions to another novel; revisions and several short stories in draft form, plus a story I wrote and published this year, “Welcome Briefing at the Obayashi-Ragan Youth Hostel.
  • It includes “How to Walk Through Historic Graveyards in the Digital Age,” which will appear in the March/April issue of Asimov’s, and revisions to “The Ghost Tide Chanty,” which will appear at Tor.com.
  • 410,243 does not include: twelve (out of fourteen total) Cooking the Books episodes, other blog posts here, an essay on staying ahead of technology as a fiction writer for SFSignal, two Mind Melds, a food of the future roundtable for Tor.com, ten articles and bookshelf write-ups for GeekMom.com, one co-written article for the Washington Post, two proposals, one game world for Storium, or my review of Eileen Gunn’s Questionable Practices for the New York Review of Science Fiction.
  • I used a friend’s wordcount tracking spreadsheet to see how my writing broke across days and months. It is infinitely useful and I’m very grateful for it. There were definitely a few thin weeks, while I was traveling. I’m hoping to get better about working on the road. 410,243 words breaks out to 7,890 a week, average, and 1,124 a day, but there were days and weeks when I wrote more, and less.
  • I like what I wrote for last year’s number post. I’m keeping it for this year:

Last year, my goal was to write more, better words. This year, I’m sticking with the ‘better’ side of that goal. I want to write consistently, and to learn new ways to tell more powerful stories every day. I don’t need to write more words, though if that happens too, I’ll be glad for it. Consistent words. Better words. In pleasing arrangements. Goal.

  • There’s one more number that’s much different from my word count number. It’s 0765377837. It’s the ISBN number for Updraft. I like that number a lot.

So that’s me. Do numbers keep you motivated? If so, which ones?

Owning My Notebook Habit …

So a few weeks ago, the lovely Shveta Thakrar asked me about the piles of notebooks I have in my office.

What The Author Sees.

What The Author Sees.

I don’t have piles. I have a couple notebooks, maybe. Piles would make me a tree killer. That’s what I thought. (more…)

On Reading In Public

photo by Sam J. Miller

NYRSF reading, 2013. Photo by Sam J. Miller

Imagine yourself in a room filled with chairs, all pointed right at you. There’s a table with a sweating pitcher of water and an empty plastic cup, a box of leftover cookie crumbs, and, if you’re lucky, a table-tent with your name on it.

Welcome to your reading – one of many, you hope. What are you going to do now? (more…)

My Writing Process*

Emily Jiang’s Summoning the Phoenix – Amazon | B&N | Indiebound

There’s a series of questions going around the blogosphere about writing processes. Author Emily Jiang — whose beautiful children’s book, Summoning The Phoenix debuted this month to great fanfare (seriously, you should check it out!) — tagged me to talk about my writing process.

And I’m late getting the post up.

Why? Because I was finishing an edit pass, and …. I was late. No excuses. My letting this post go a few days longer than it should is relevant to my writing process.

So – there are six things that underpin how I write. I don’t always do all of them, and sometimes I’m a bit of a squirrel-brain (with apologies to the squirrels), but when I think about how I write (*always subject to change), this is what I get: (more…)

Writers’ Workshops – Which One’s Right For You

(This article has been reprinted from Apex Publishing’s archives. It was originally published there on February 7, 2014)

When you’ve reached the point in your writing career where you’d like to connect with other writers and improve your craft, it might be time to start exploring your options with regards to writers’ workshops.

For science fiction, fantasy, and horror writers, there are a range of options. There are six-week residencies and year-round online communities. Workshops vary in number of students admitted, costs to attend, and application procedures, so please visit their websites for the full scoop.

Nota Bene: Writers’ workshops can mean considerable expense, both in money and time spent. They are not for everyone, and they are not a guarantee of writerly success. What they are is an opportunity to focus on craft in the company of other writers, including more experienced writers. This can be a powerful experience.

Here are a few of the workshops available in the United States and online for adults and, separately, for teens, along with insights from program organizers, teachers, and students when possible. (Note, while I’ve done the gathering, errors happen and are entirely the blogger’s fault – please consider each workshop’s website as the final word.) (more…)

Unbound: Authors in the Classroom

School’s back in session, and I’ve been talking with friends about the relationship between authors and education (Especially in light of banned books week.). I haven’t done a tools-of-the-trade post in a while, and I thought we could look at the positive side of school visits – what works and why.

I’ve been on all three sides of school author visits – as a teacher, as a writer-in-the-schools, and as a student. Meeting authors and hearing them talk about what inspired them, and then having them ask what inspired us? Those were some amazing class sessions that challenged me to be a more involved reader and writer. I hope I do the same whenever I walk into a classroom.

So I asked Charlotte, who teaches high school English up at 9,000ft in Colorado; Christie, who is a reading specialist in Philadelphia, PA; and Stacey, an administrator and English teacher in Philadelphia; and authors Alethea Kontis, E.C. Myers, Gregory Frost, Stephanie Kuehn, and Jonathan Maberry to help me out.

(more…)

The Sneaky Lathe of Poetry *

Lathe: n. A machine in which work is rotated about a horizontal axis and shaped by a fixed tool.

(This essay originally appeared at Apex Magazine on April 3, 2013)

If you are not the sort who enjoys poetry, you might think April (being National Poetry Month) is the season for eye-rolling over enforced rhyme schemes and cringing at public displays of meter.

But even if you skip town for the month, poetic voice still shapes your experience in sneaky ways. The results will catch you unawares.

Take some of your favorite titles, as one example. (more…)