Friday, December 30, 2011

My 2011

First, the personal stuff: My dog of thirteen years died at the beginning of the year, which made me miserable for longer than I could have imagined. The Boy graduated from high school and started college, so that was awesome. No, Elke, he's still not ready to be called The Man yet. I gave many driving lessons to my daughter. I appeared on the SFF Audio podcast for the first time (touting Grant Morrison's incredible Supergods), read some awesome books and saw Cirque du Soleil for the first time (a birthday gift for the girl).

On the writerly front, I had an awesome start to the year with the publication of my story, Beauty Belongs to the Flowers at I followed that up in April with my story, Steve Sepp, Tasty! Tasty! in Nature. I donated The Girl with the Halo to a fundraiser for my pals at Chizine (Sorry, that one's no longer up), had my story, Losing Touch, published in Polluto #8, and Electric Ladyland published in StarShipSofa Stories Vol. 3. Accepted, but not yet published, is my story The Empire State Building Strikes Back!, to The Dunesteef podcast.

With the sales of Beauty and Steve Sepp, my second and third pro sales, I was able to join SFWA as an active member, which felt fantastic. It's a great club in which to be.

It was a startlingly small output of short stories for me this year. Only five! Worst year in a long, long time. Oh, Matty, you're not going to reach one-thousand that way. I am, however, full of excuses. I was working on longer things. In the spring I got about 24,000 words into a novel that was put on hold because I got wild with Beware the Hairy Mango and pulled off MuchoMangoMayo, thirty-one new episodes in the thirty-one days of May. I'm happy to say that it was such a success I'll be doing it again in 2012. Then I put the novel on hold again to work on a novella. I did a couple of short stories, then decided to turn the novella into a novel because I had a lot more to say on the subject. I'm deep into that one now and hope to have it done by June. That first novel I mentioned will get done eventually.

Only 51 submissions this year, but the paucity of stories produced helps explain that.

Having said all this, my word output has skyrocketed this year. In years past, 1,000 words was a good week, no matter what I wanted, tried or hoped for. I started cranking that up in a big way in the spring and for the last three months or so, I've averaged about 8,000 words a week.

I didn't want to mention specific goals on this blog last year, so there's nothing to comment on except that I went in a different direction than I expected to with the longer works.

As for 2012, the first five months of next year will be consumed by the novel and the Mango. After that. I need to hustle out lots of short stories. I'm hoping that my increased word counts will help me gain a lot of ground there. Okay, so officially, I'm shooting for the completion of a novel, fifty-three episodes of Beware the Hairy Mango, thirty new short stories and two hundred submissions.

It's a good thing I have no life.

I hope all of you reading this had a great 2011 and will have an even greater 2012. Let's hit it!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Novella To Novel (In Progress)

So I wrote a novella over the summer that I liked so much, I decided to turn it into a novel. The novella was about 20,000 words long and the novel is currently about 65,000 words long. Here I'll tell you what the process has been like so far. This may sound like a very weird way to write a novel, but everyone does it differently.

I took about a two month break between projects and while I was bubbling with ideas at the beginning of those two months, I was unfortunately a little dry when it came time to start the novel. I had a couple of ideas I knew I wanted to explore and wrote them down, then I mostly just wrote whatever came into my head about some political and technological ideas I decided to throw in.

It was going a bit slower than I wanted it to, so I whipped out my secret weapon. My secret weapon is a reader of this blog to whom I give my personal deadlines. I realized months ago that I'm pretty good at meeting deadlines for other people, but can't meet my own. So I give this person my deadlines, and I work a lot harder to meet them. I had set a deadline of 100,000 words by the end of the year, but nothing any more specific. I realized I was falling behind quickly, so I made smaller goals with weekly deadlines. 7,000 words a week. Then things started moving.

Next some scenes started to gel so I wrote those. Now, for the most part, I wrote each of these chunks down after the body of the original story, in no particular order and whether or not they made perfect sense in relation to the rest of the story.

When I ran out of ideas, I read through the original story once more and added stuff, bits of dialogue and details, which led to more ideas for chunks of stuff to be added to the big mess at the end of the file. I was shooting for 100,000 words for the first draft but petered out at 65,000 words using this process. No sweat. This meant, for me, that it was time to move onto the second draft.

Some writers overwrite for their first draft and spend subsequent drafts cutting stuff out. Others underwrite and add. I'm one of those. So in preparation for the second draft, I picked up each one of those homeless chunks of text that came after the story and dropped it roughly where it fit in the story chronologically. I made new chapters for them if they were needed. Now, as I've said, they might not make perfect sense with the rest of the story, but that's going to be fixed later.

Once the chunks were distributed, I renumbered my chapters (I ended up adding sixteen chapters) and sketched an outline. I never begin with an outline. I write chunks, assemble them and then write the outline. The outline is just a list of chapter numbers, each with a one sentence description of what happens in the chapter. This way I can see the entire novel on a page or so. A handy reference.

The step I'm in now is to read through the story I've got, make little changes and write notes for bigger changes. After that, I'll make those changes and then see what's missing, what still needs to be written.

That's all I've got for now. There will be more than that, but I don't want to get too far ahead of myself. This novel will be the first one I've ever finished. The process I've described here, though, is the same sort of thing I use for my short stories. I start with unconnected scenes and fix it up later. Best writing advice I ever got? It was from my guitarist friend, Chris Simmonds, when we were teenagers:

Write what you've got.