I have a spreadsheet where I keep track of how much paid writing I do in a given day. Blogging doesn't count; email doesn't count. Tumblr and twitter and facebook? Don't count.
Only words that pay the bills count.
I don't keep the spreadsheet to guilt trip myself into working, or meeting a daily goal. I keep it because I'm a hyper-self-critical, hyper-self-competitive, workaholic perfectionist, and writing it down gives me something to take to my domineering, overbearing boss (that would be me) to prove to her that really, I have been working hard, and we are getting stuff down, and look, there is measurable forward motion here shut up and have a coffee, lady.
So I happen to know that, with the exception of the hypergraphia year of 2003, when I wrote over 600,000 words in twelve months, over the course of the past thirteen years as a professional writer (some of it full-time, some of it with a day job in tow), I have in different years averaged between 650-1250 words of paying copy a day.
That's somewhere between two and a half and five pages. So far, this year, I'm averaging four pages a day. I'd like to keep that range going.
Now, that's an average. That doesn't mean I write four pages every day. (I know writers who set themselves a goal like that, or--more commonly, two pages a day--and I Know some who write ten pages every day! Or more! and some for whom daily averages are meaningless because they sit down and write every novel and short story in a binge, drunk on their word hoards and reeling. I often finish novels this way, but the bulk of them is written in daily chunks.)
And yet, I have a reputation as a very fast writer.
I'm not. I'm just a writer who shows up (nearly) every day and gets something on paper. Some days I write nothing. Some weeks I write nothing. I take days off. I go on trips and teach workshops. Some days I'm editing or researching, for that matter, and those days have no wordcount attached.
My point is this: Since 2002, when I finished writing the first novel I ever managed to get past the Dreaded 30K Wall, I've written 25 novels (5 of them collaborative) and over a hundred short stories or novellas.
At an average rate of roughly four pages a day.
Up to a certain point, the more you write the faster you learn--productivity breeds practice, after all.
But four pages a day is pretty doable for many people. And one page a day is probably doable for almost anybody.
So if you've been thinking about writing your great book, the story only you can tell... why not write just one page today?
And another page tomorrow?
If you're an artist, draw a thing today, and another thing tomorrow.
(This blog post, by the way, is exactly five hundred words.
...or about two pages.)
- Current Mood: happy
- Current Music:Florence + The Machine - What The Water Gave Me
Tonight I'm going to cut it out and then restart.
It is done.
Final wordcount is a little over 106,000 words.
Have some Florence and the Machine to celebrate.
- Current Mood: anxious
- Current Music:Shriekback - Everything's On Fire
It's that time. I've started the final revision pass on Karen Memory. So far, I'm working through the bits that only need tweaks, because the earlier chapters have already had several editing passes, after all. (One of the many ways all that Useful Writing Advice doesn't work for me--several times over the course of any given book, I have to go back and restructure the early bits and add things and move stuff around, or the book doesn't go forward. I can't always just make notes and keep going.)
Soon, my pretties. Soon. Soon.
But for the meantime, we're in Earbrass Country. ("We can't stop here!")
I spent the last four days shoveling out from under a bucket of post-novel ennui after finishing a short story tentatively called "No Place to Dream, but a Place to Die." There were a lot of movies and a certain number of books and even more Bejeweled, I'm afraid.
In other news, it's coming up on a month to publication for Steles of the Sky, and I am psyched! Tor.com has the first chunk up as an excerpt if you just can't wait to get started.
- Current Mood: content
- Current Music:Talking Heads - Life During Wartime (Live)
Karen Memory: 31 January 2014 (tick tock)
OWW review: 15 February 2014
Cyborg story: 28 February 2014
Sekrit project: February 2014
Book proposal: Eternal Sky 4-6 Sekrit Projekt #2
"This Chance Planet": 31 March 2014
Revise Karen Memory: 1 April 2014
"Something's Gotta Eat T. rexes": 30 April 2014
"Flush" : 31 May 2014
Apocalypse story: 30 June 2014
"A Time to Reap": 1 August 2014
"Steel": 30 September 2014
An Apprentice to Elves: Autumn 2014
Other apocalypse story: 31 December 2014
Award reading and judging
Other award reading and judging
Sekrit Projekts #1 & #2 (tentative)
No fixed deadline:
Bard troll story
Smile (unless its name is actually Salt Water)
Untitled Gangland Urban Fantasy That Keeps Bugging Me
"Untitled Space Opera Thingy" aka "Periastron"
"On Safari in R'lyeh and Carcosa with Gun and Camera"
"Patience and Fortitude"
travel and appearances 2014:
January 10th at 6 pm: MIT SFS: Cambridge, Massachusetts (with Scott)
February 13-15, 2014: Boskone: Boston, Massachusetts
March 14-16, 2014: Tucson Festival of Books: Tucson, Arizona
March 22-24, 2014: Vericon: Harvard Univerity, Cambridge Massachusetts
April 17-20, 2014: Minicon: Minneapolis, Minnesota
April 25-27th, 2014: RavenCon: North Chesterfield, Virginia (Guest of Honor)
May 1-5, 2014: Mo-Con: Indianapolis, Indiana (Guest of Honor with Scott)
June 5-9, 2014: Phoenix Comicon: Phoenix, Arizona (Guest of Honor with Squeecast)
June 20-23, 2014: 4th Street Fantasy: Minneapolis, Minnesota
July 3-7, 2014: ConVergence: Minneapolis, Minnesota
July 11-13, 2014: Finncon: Jyväskylä, Finland (Guest of Honor with special guest Scott Lynch)
Then between July 16th and 22nd, Scott and I will be visiting
- SF Bokhandeln Stockholm
- SF Bokhandeln Gothenberg
- SF Bokhandeln Malmo
- Fantastik Copenhagen
(exact dates eventually)
August 8-10, 2014: Nine Worlds, London, England
August 14-17, 2014: Worldcon: London, England
October 31-November 2, 2014: ICON: Iowa City, Iowa (Guest of Honor with Scott)
November 14-16, 2014: Windycon: Lombard, Illinois (Guest of Honor with Squeecast)
- Current Mood: thankful
- Current Music:Florence + The Machine - What The Water Gave Me
But first, I have my edit letter for Karen Memory, and starting tomorrow that needs to be happening. Wow, it's such a damned nice feeling to get things off my desk.
Often, working on a novel feels like spinning your wheels for months and months and months--because there's work, endless work, and it's all on the same thing, and it never feels like you will get to get your brain back and do something new. But the end is in sight, here.
And not to bury the lede, but! Shattered Pillars is longlisted for the David Gemmell Legend Award! (So is a book by that boy I like, ahem.) And EVERYBODY ON THE INTERNET CAN VOTE ONCE.
- Current Mood: artistic
- Current Music:Talking Heads - Warning Sign
Yeah, I have a problem. I'm working on a short story, but I have the Post-Novel Ennui, and my head has that empty dustbunnies-rolling-over-the-floor feeling I get when I have used up all my brain. So I have emailed the editor, and let him know that I am Out Of Clever, and the story may be a little late.
Fortunately, the editor in question is a good egg, and seems to understand.
This is happening more often, lately. I'm not sure if it's due to increasing demands, or due to me getting old. In any case, I'm trying hard to say "no" to more projects, even though that's stupidly hard.
But I need to make myself space to be creative.
Anyway, I took today off. I took the dog for a walk, and I'm catching up on recipe blogs. And I made myself a Delicious Cocktail. It's a Clover Club. I even made my own grenadine. And I walked over to the co-op to get pomegranate juice. (Our local co-op is a wonderland. It's the size of a large broom closet and has one of everything. It's also the only grocery store in town. I came home with pomegranate juice, habanero jelly, dark chocolate, and sticky brown rice. Seriously. Rural town of 3000 people.)
Here's a photo of my pretty pink drink:
The home-made grenadine gives a lighter color than the commercial stuff, but the commercial stuff is 70% HFCS and 30% red dye #5 with a dash of citric acid. I'll go with home made.
Earlier, I reported that Steles of the Sky had scored the coveted starred review from Kirkus. Well, it got one from Publishers Weekly, too. And much less spoilery! (There are spoilers for previous volumes in both reviews!)
I do indulge myself to quote:
Bear’s stellar conclusion to her Mongolian-flavored fantasy trilogy (after Range of Ghosts and Shattered Pillars) is a satisfying mix of traditional epic fantasy elements, flavored with original magic and grounded with mundane details that make the fantastic seem entirely possible. As the skies shift, reflecting the mortals in power and their associated gods, forces align to support or challenge wizard al-Sepehr as he wages war in the name of the Scholar-God. Warrior Re Temur and his allies travel to Dragon Lake to rally the opposition with Temur’s declaration of his assumption of the position of Khagan, heir to his grandfather’s empire. Battles are fought on both a personal level and a grand scale, with artifacts of obscure ancient civilizations, spirit animals, magical creatures, and poetry and politics. The conclusion is both untelegraphed and completely appropriate. Bear’s trilogy makes a rich contribution to epic fantasy’s expanding borders of emotion and invention.
And we didn't quite get the starred review trifecta, alas... but Booklist really, really liked it:
Steles of the Sky
Bear, Elizabeth (Author)
Apr 2014. 384 p. Tor, hardcover, $26.99. (9780765327567). Tor, e-book, (9781429947688).
Bear concludes the epic begun in Range of Ghosts with her usual subversive flair. Temur and his companions begin this volume in the city of Reason, exploring ancient places and magics; they must make their way to Dragon Lake to declare Temur Khagan and gather an army against the terrible forces of Al-Sepehr. Edene, having effected her own rescue, contends with the terrible sun of Erem and the voice of the Green Ring. Al-Sepehr plans to use Saadet’s son, Quori Buqa’s son, to contest Temur’s claim on the Eternal Sky. There are, of course, other threads to be woven together: those who would fight at Temur’s side, and those who have taken the side of Al-Sepehr. Everything leads to a great and terrible battle at Dragon Lake, at which the very fate of the world may well be decided. The world of the Eternal Sky is a gorgeously fleshed-out one, and the characters without exception fascinating, sometimes maddening, and complex. This is a pleasing conclusion to an epic; it ties up the major threads but leaves many open questions about how the world will move forward. — Regina Schroeder
- Current Mood: tired
- Current Music:All Things Considered
First off, Kirkus starred review of Steles of the Sky!!
Spoilers for the whole freaking series, so be cautious of your clickthrough. But the takeaway makes it all worthwhile:
the overused term masterpiece justifiably applies.
The other cool thing is that two audio anthologies I was part of are nominated for Audie Awards!
One is Rip Off!, edited by Gardner Dozois, featuring a suite of stories that borrow their first line from a classic work. (Mine is from Christopher Marlowe's Edward II. ;) )The other is METAtropolis III: Green Space, edited by Jay Lake and Ken Scholes--third in a series of shared-world anthologies about a possible adaptive, non-apocalyptic future for Earth and the human race.
They are both nominated for the Best Anthology Award. So I'm competing against myself, and the best bit is that Mary Robinette Kowal is also in both. Maybe she can win one and I can win... crap, that won't work. :(
Oh, and the best bit is, That Boy I Like is nominated for the best audiobook in the Fantasy category for The Republic of Thieves, along with reader Michael Page!
- Current Mood: busy
- Current Music:Florence + The Machine - No Light, No Light
WHY I SHOULD HAVE LISTENED TO GEORGE R. R. MARTIN TEN YEARS AGO AND HOW YOU CAN LEARN FROM MY MISTAKE
So, ten or so years ago, when I was a very new young published novelist, I was thrilled to send in my dues check to SFWA and (red alert) go wandering the forums for the first time. NB: This is the first of many errors I will be confessing to in this article.
While on those forums, I compounded my error by chiming in on a thread about "Why the new writers aren't joining SFWA." I pointed out that among my peers--who, even then, were showing signs of being the vanguard of the current Rainbow Age of Science Fiction--SFWA had a reputation for harboring a lot of people with racist, sexist, homophobic agendas.
Well, some people really didn't want to hear it. In particular, I got into it with two of the same Rabid Weasels***** who still kick around the message boards, creating an aura of toxicity and self-complaints about how they should really be writing novels rather than getting into internet slapfights wherever they go*.** And to make a long story short, I quit SFWA in a huff, as is traditional in our tribe.
If I remember the timeline correctly****, some time later that same year (or early the next one) I got into a conversation (on his livejournal) with no less a light than George R.R. Martin about the same topic. And this is where I owe George an apology, which I make here, and publicly: because George took the time to point out to me that the way organizations change is through new blood joining them, and also tried to educate me about the work done by the Emergency Medical Fund, the Emergency Legal Fund, and Griefcom.
At the time, I was still way too stung to want to hear it.
In the decade or so since, I've realized that he was entirely correct, and I was entirely wrong.
I am a SFWA member again; I expect to be one until I die. Because I have come to understand that the people mouthing off on the forums are not in fact the heart of SFWA. The heart of SFWA are the people who do the hard boring work (volunteer work, mostly, by the way--I myself have done a very very small part of it and I am boggled by the scale of the chores that need to be done) of digging through paperwork and sending endless emails for Griefcom, for the Medical Fund, and so forth.
Yes, SFWA does have a certain percentage of Racist Sexist Homophobic Bigots. No, I don't actually think we should be hunting them down and driving them out. (The Recent Unpleasantness With Mr. Beale being an exception to that rule, because Beale misused SFWA resources to pursue his disgusting agenda.) The reason I don't think we should be driving out people whose politics differ from my own is simple: witchhunts are a flawed model, and easily turn in the hand.
But I also believe that when people voice their opinions, they can live with the pushback--both from colleagues, and from fans.
I do think we as writers who hold more progressive views should be joining SFWA. I think that SFWA is a valuable organization, and I think that viewing it through the lens of the worst-behaved members is tragic. SFWA is not a social club: it's a professional organization serving some of the same purposes as a labor union******. We don't all have to get along and want to go drinking together to productively support the careers of speculative fiction writers.
I think SFWA should be striving for professionalism in the house organs; I support the SFWA Bulletin being edited with an eye towards modern recognition of equality of and dignity for all people. (I do understand that there are generational shifts in language and how it's appropriate to refer to one's colleagues and friends; I think we should strive not to come across as escapees from Mad Men or Life on Mars.)
The thing is, every organization of any size has people I am going to disagree with on many levels--personal and political. Hell, some of my close friends have politics I find incomprehensible, though I draw the line at conscious bigotry. The bulk of the people in SFWA are not horrible human beings; even some of the folks who have recently put their feet in their mouths are not horrible human beings.
But it's not complicated to insist that female writers, trans* writers, queer writers, writers of color, writers of marginalized creeds need to be treated with respect by their (our) peers. And if that means everybody walking on eggshells for a while until we sort out how we can be comfortable around each other, well so fucking be it.
There is nothing wrong with being on your good behavior in a professional setting. It's how most people go to work every day.
NB: Comments are unscreened for now. Do not make me regret this choice.
*For those of you who just nodded in recognition, yes. Them.
**I also got a number of totally reasonable reactions of dismay, and some calls for my peers to join the organization and change it from the inside***. And several lasting friendships, with people who actually listened to what I was trying to say.
***Oh, the sweet irony of hindsight.
****Forgive me. It was in another country, and several email clients ago.
******Edited to clarify hyperbole
- Current Mood: determined
- Current Music:Florence + The Machine - What The Water Gave Me
A Novel of the Promethean Age
Publication Date: August 13, 2014
Yes, for reals this time, and now with a shiny new cover.
The One-Eyed Jack and the Suicide King: personifications of the city of Las Vegas—its history, mystery, mystical power, and heart...
When the Suicide King vanishes—possibly killed—in the middle of a magic-rights turf war started by the avatars of Los Angeles, a notorious fictional assassin, and the mutilated ghost of Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel—his partner, the One-Eyed Jack, must seek the aid of a bizarre band of legendary and undead allies: the ghosts of Doc Holliday and John Henry the steel-driving man; the echoes of several imaginary super spies, decades displaced in time; and a vampire named Tribute, who bears a strikingresemblance to a certain long-lost icon of popular music.
All stories are true, but some stories are truer than others.
- Current Mood: chipper
- Current Music:there is nothing but the sound of the rain.
Soup for lunch! (And interested party)
I've had a couple of people ask how I make my Giant Bowls Of Lunch Soup, and so I will post the directions here. It takes fifteen minutes and only enough technical skill to boil water, and makes an enormous bowl of healthy satisfying warm food.
Get two cups of broth or stock. If you have home-made, that's the best, but don't stress it. Of the box brands, I like Swanson's low-sodium fat-free chicken stock, and Trader Joe's Miso Ginger broth (for the vegetarians and vegans in the audience. Or people who like miso. Yum.) You could also make a quick miso broth with dashi (dried fish stock), and whisk some live miso into it at the very end once it comes off the boil. (So as not to murder the poor little probiotics before consuming them.)
Please don't use boullion cubes. Those things are not food.
Season the broth with any or all of the following: sliced ginger, lemon grass, cilantro, lime leaf, coconut milk, red peppers, sweet chili paste, hot sauce, fish sauce, Italian seasoning, star anise, dried seaweed... whatever takes your fancy.
While the broth is coming to a boil, put any or all of the following things in a great big bowl: greens (baby greens are best--spinach, kale, mesclun mix, whatever), thin-sliced veggies (radishes, sweet peppers, celery, carrots, avocado, jicama, leftover cooked vegetables, pea pods, red cabbage, precut broccoli slaw from a bag, whatever), and if you want it some protein (cooked chicken, tofu cubes, tuna, you name it.) and some fresh herbs (I am really partial to cilantro, but basil or rosemary would give a more Mediterranean flair), lime or lemon zest and/or juice...
I like carbs. They fuel my brain, and long runs. So once the broth is boiling, I either add some frozen potstickers, some quinoa, some leftover rice, or some noodles or pasta of some sort. (If you are using a sticky kind of noodle you may want to pre-cook it in a different pot of water, then drain and transfer, to keep from clouding your broth, but this is optional.) You want a relatively small quantity, because otherwise you use up all your broth.
Once the carbs are cooked (or, if using precooked carbs, the broth has come back to a boil) you may either add some frozen shrimp or fish (if you like) or a raw egg. If using an egg, lower the heat to a simmer before adding it. Either will only take a minute or two to cook, covered. (I like my eggs soft-poached in this application. Then you can open them up and dip things in the delicious creamy yolk before you eat them.)
Once that's accomplished, take the whole pot of soup and pour it slowly, while boiling hot, over your greens. Poke the greens down until they're submerged. They will blanch in the boiling broth and be perfect.
You could sprinkle something crunchy on top if you wanted, like chopped peanuts or crumbled nori or sesame seeds or that red and black stuff they put on sushi rice in your chirashi if you're lucky.
I usually eat this with chopsticks, because it has big chunks and there's nobody around who cares is I slurp the broth after, but the utensils are up to you. This is obviously pretty easy to customize for any dietary need you might have, as well, except "hates soup."
It serves the purpose of a really satisfying lunch that has a ton of veggies in it and feeds my dumpling/noodle habit in a non-destructive way!
NB: The combination of premade frozen potstickers and even the low-sodium packaged broth is a salt bomb, FYI. Since I eat very little processed food, it generally doesn't send me over for the day, but if it concerns you, look for lower-sodium alternatives.
- Current Mood: lethargic
- Current Music:Jimmy Buffett - Tryin' To Reason With Hurricane Season