August 11th, 2006

bear by san

a girl's gotta think about her options.

Tim got me pondering.

It's true. After a week of dead euphoric relief about having Undertow and A Companion to Wolves at least temporarily off my desk, and a little breathing room established before they or Whiskey & Water redescend, I've started being fretful again. It's like the driving wheel doesn't ungear; when I run out of track, it just starts whirring deeper and deeper into the mud.

On the other hand, I am crossing smaller projects off my to-do list, which is nice. (I have a crappy draft of the ASIM article, which needs a serious revision and focus, but I have a draft--the hard part is done. That means the only thing I have to get done in September is the New Amsterdam novelette for Subterranean.)

Since part of the purpose of this blog is to give an dog's eye view of what the life of a working writer is really like, and because I need to have a good sit-down-and-prioritize, and because I am of the sort that stresses less when she has a plan, you all get treated to a discussion of how I mean to spend the last third of 2006. (Calm down, Bear. There is still a third of a year left. That's a lot of time.)

Okay. So right now, I am in the enviable position of having books in the can through 2007 for all my publishers, and nothing under contract that's not written except a gonzo space opera novella (due in April, 18-25K, shouldn't be too hard to get done.) and half of the New Amsterdam collection, which amounts to two novelettes and a novella: "Limerent," (of which I have 18 pages written), "Chatoyant," and "Lumiere."

Limerent has to be done by Sept. 5. That is my first priority.

Also, I owe Jay a short story for a Secrit Project. *g* Which I have not forgotten. I just need to sit down and do the bloody research for it. Call that a week, at least. And I have about eight unifinished shorts that it would make me very happy to get written, because, well, I hate unfinished projects. They chafe.

Also. The copy-edited manuscript for Whiskey & Water will be along sometime this fall, and that's a week's work right there. There were also be revisions to Undertow, which may be light (I did the fixes to Scardown in two hours) or they may be heavy (Whiskey & Water took most of a month to fix.) So I need to leave space in my life for that.

I'm also lucky in that I have the next three books in the Promethean Age series written (if anybody wants to publish them, of course; I'm waiting to hear back from Penguin on the option novel now. If nobody wants to publish them, then I'm unlucky in that I'm stuck with three manuscripts that go in the trunk. *g*) And I have solid ideas for six more books in that setting, and vague ideas for oh, maybe a few more. So that sucker is set through 2009, at a conservative estimate, and by the time I need to write more books in it, they should be good and ripe.

So that's a ball that's totally in the other guy's court. Which is the thing about life that I am worst about, by the way: I suck at waiting, and I suck at not being in control. Call it a life lesson, and move on.

Spectra is going to need a book proposal for their contracted option novel sometime after Undertow is revised and finally accepted. That will probably be Dust: I need fifty pages and a synopsis. I should probably get that done by the end of winter, really. Assuming they buy it (which of course is never certain) and assuming they offer another two-book contract, I should also have at least a vague idea of what happens after that. I currently have two options in mind: Spindrift, which would take place in the Jennyverse but not be a direct sequel to that trilogy, or Soldier's Heart, which needs a title that sounds less like a romance novel, which would be a direct sequel to Carnival, concerning any possible survivors of that book. (eh heh. heh heh.)

I've also been thinking about putting together the ToC for a Promethean Age collection, though about a third of the stories are already in TCTYR, and I eventually want to do a second collected-works anthology, so I dunno. That might, indeed, be Blue Oyster Cult-like milking of the same three songs. *g*

And then there's the Edda of Burdens. Which is my first three books, a not-a-trilogy comprised of All the Windwracked Stars, By the Mountain Bound, and The Sea thy Mistress. This is the infamous Noir Norse Steampunk Heroic Fantasy With Catgirls, Rent Boys, And Valkyrie Smut. I love this project. It's dear to my heart. It's the setting I spend my daydreaming time in.

I have drafts of all three books written. The problem is, the first one sucks in all the ways a first novel can suck, the formerly-second-now-third one is a mess, and the formerly-third-now-second one is actually structurally sound, but the prose is, well. I believe the expression is "I have done better since."

I've rewritten the first 70 pages or so of AtWS, and prepared a complete proposal. So *that* is squared away, and technically I don't have any more work to do on those until and unless we sell them, which we will (I have some faith) do in due course. (arcaedia likes the rewrite so far; I like the rewrite so far, and I'm having tremendous fun with it.)

On the other hand, it needs a lot of fixing. To the tune of, really, writing a whole new book that bears some superficial resemblances to the old. And I'm pretty burned out and need a break from heavy work for a while. (One of the tricks of being your own writerboss is knowing when to cut yourself some slack.) And I'm currently giving myself a break from writing anything new, in fact, until after Worldcon.

(I realized I needed this because while I have pages of notes for "Limerent," and I know pretty much everything that happens, I find myself staring at the page for hours on end, struggling to so much as put down a word, while my brain comes up with household chores that need doing before we write.) (and of course this would all be a cakewalk if it weren't for the time commitments of cons and The Day Job, but... it's nice to be able to eat something other than Ramen Shame (aka Purina Student Chow), and see friends and fans.)

So this morning I came up with the solution.

All that BtMB needs, really, is the prose and storytelling brought up to snuff, a storytelling choice I've decided is better addressed by moving the offending plot thread to The Sea thy Mistress polished out, and the voices of the three first person narrators made more distinct. It's revising, not new writing.

...and it will keep me from feeling like a complete slacker sitting around the house in my mustard-stained wifebeater and eating pretzels. It's like a vacation... that fools my Puritan Work Ethic into thinking it's not a vacation!

bear by san

(no subject)

Literary Agent Rachel Vater on Why it's a bad idea to jump genres unless you can manage to write two books a year, every year.

What she said.

(And yes, somebody is saying, but Bear, aren't you writing for five different publishers in four different subgenres?)

Yes. I'm publishing science fiction with Bantam Spectra, heroic fantasy (with truepenny) for Tor, urban fantasy/secret history (You know, that Tim Powers subgenre) for Roc, an alternate history collection for Subterranean, and a short fiction collection with Night Shade. (And Sarah and I are peddling a YA historical mystery, but those are just fun to write.)

Charles Stross is another good example of a relatively new (where pro for the last decade is still kinda new, in publishing terms) writer who's doing the same thing (He's got his more-or-less hard SF, his Laundry books, and the Family Trade series going on.) I also know several other writers who are writing two or three subgenres under different names. (y'all could identify yourselves, if you wanted.)

I'm also writing two or three books a year, and I was doing it for long enough before I broke into print that I had a convenient backlog. And I wouldn't be writing for more than one publisher if my publishers weren't each so interested in maintaining a brand.

This is how it worked. Spectra bought the Jenny books, option on the next F or SF novel. The option novel I sent them was B&I. They passed for a complex of reasons, one of them being that Anne-my-wily-editor thought it would be smarter to keep the science fiction coming., at this point, my contract with Spectra was officially terminated. Neither one of us owed the other a damned thing. And if I were the type to get huffy, I could have stalked off and taken my business elsewhere. All well and good, sure. And we did take B&I elsewhere--to Roc, which bought it.

But instead of the huff, Jenn-my-agent-Jenn and I decided that, well, if they want science fiction we'll give them science fiction. And I wanted to write Carnival anyway, and had finished a hundred pages of that, so we sent that in as a proposal.

...Suddenly, I have two publishers.

A year later, repeat this process with A Companion to Wolves, which was first submitted to Penguin (which publishes both Sarah and me, in its respective corporate persons as Ace and Roc), rejected there, submitted to Spectra, rejected there, and bought by the lovely people at Tor. the previous itinerary post would tend to indicate, I don't currently plan to terminate my relationships with Spectra or Roc unless they invite me to seek publication opportunities elsewhere. So, at this point, I have three mainstream publishers, and two small press publishers. This means I have three different option clauses (none of which can contradict each other), and it also means that my publishers have to be willing to coordinate publication schedules, because it does nobody any good if three eBear novels hit the shelves in the same week. That is what we call a glut on the market.

It's no good.

I think this tale demonstrates several things, though. (1) Persistence is good. (2) Publishers reject books, not authors. (3) Unless that author's a complete pain to work with (4) or her numbers are bad, in which case if you come back with a good book, you can always change your name. (5) It is possible to be quite successful while playing within the rules. (6) I still make what Rachel Vater would consider pretty sucky advances. *g* (7) On the other hand, I'm also getting to build a reputation faster than most new writers do, and that's pretty exciting. (8) No matter how fast you write, you can only publish so many books in a year (9) but if you have more than one publisher, they will most likely each expect a book each year and (10) there's no joy for anybody if you overproduce, and write crap because of it.

Nor is there any joy for anybody if you underproduce, and nobody remembers your first book by the time the second one is out.
bear by san

(post) human

It's ten thirty at night, but there's still a fair stream of traffic. The night's grown chill, and the wind from the open passenger side window is cold on my neck. I palm the gearshift; the speed limit's fifty, the traffic is moving at sixty-five, and this part of the highway is two lanes each side with a metal guard rail between. There are no lights but the headlights.

I've got the music cranked. Atonal, loud, heavy beat. Shriekback. "The Bastard Sons of Enoch."  The Devil said Caine I think this will fly. The driving requires concentration, focus, but it's a pleasant sort of focus, and while we're going fast--the night whipping past, streetlights now and exit signs--this is well within the safe capabilities of my seventeen-year-old five-speed Chevy.

Cement truck in the slow lane drifting on the curve. Dump the clutch and floor it; we skitter past at seventy and I laugh. Take my foot off the gas, upshift, glide it out until there's running room on either side.

Some asshole in a beamer decides to tailgate; I could move over but the lane I'm in forks in about a half mile and one fork is my exit.

I don't feel much guilt over ruining his night.

The lane forks. He tears past me. I downshift for the offramp and the flyover, the little truck kicking as it drops into fourth. We glide up and over--these ramps are deathtraps where there's ice, but it's a gorgeous August night, dry and cool. No worries.

Bitch of a merge, check the mirrors, hit the blinker, stamp on it and go. One eye on the rear view, one eye on the side mirror, one eye on the road ahead, both feet, both hands, check the blind spot, now. Lane change, hesitate, lane change, upshift! Wheee.

Into the canyons of the Yankee Expressway. Tunnel shit look at that guy in the Hyundai bend light! accelerate, lane change, decelerate, rough pavement, merge if you're gonna buddy, downshift, flyover, downshift now we all prefer and don't you agree a mechanical kind of ecstacy light, first gear, sirens on the cross street, wait right there, come off the clutch, one more hill, don't run in front of me you drunken bastard, right turn, left turn, right turn, home.

Lovely evening for a drive.

To a guy from 1800, I just described a field trip through Hell.