Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Blogging the struggle

When I started this here endeavor of speaking to the online world at large about my writing life, I had sold one story, three months before. It was another three months before I sold a second. I was not yet a father. I had not gone to Clarion West. Unless you count, like, acquaintances of my parents I had met as a child, I don't think I'd ever met another published writer in person.

I was very interested in recording, in these virtual pages, what it would be like to have a writing life. I had begun to meet some writing people online. (I had apparently met someone at the Literaturhaus Basel, it says at that last link, but I can't for the life of me recall whom).

So in those days, I spent a lot of time blogging (though we didn't call it that yet) about writing. What I was revising. Whom I was critiquing. What I had sent out, and where it had been rejected from, with what sort of a rejection. What I was stuck on. What I was trying to figure out.

There are a lot of reasons why I've gotten cagier.

A big one is a reluctance to kiss and tell. Now that I actually know editors, and they actually read my blog, it seems in very poor taste to say "Editor X hated this, I could send it to Editor Y, but I think I'll first see what Editor Z has to say."

On some level this is a loss. A Clarion friend was asking me today "after how many rejections do you give up on a story?" and so I told the story of "A Siege of Cranes". If you were following this journal that long, you would have seen me finish the first draft of that story in January of 2001, revise it in February , send it to F&SF in June, send it to Black Gate in September, observe by May 2003 that "it doesn't have all that many appropriate pro markets left" and in August of that year that "no one will buy" it... and finally sell it in February of 2006 to David Moles who, with characteristic insight, saw what it could be and (gently) harangued me into revising it accordingly for Twenty Epics, and now folks like it.

(So the answer to "after how many rejections do you retire a story?" is this: you retire a story when you are too embarassed of it to want to see it published any more. Here's the test: when you receive the rejection letter in the mail, close your eyes and imagine your favorite editor calling you and saying "oh my god, you know that story? It's fantastic! I HAVE to have it! Please please pretty please?" If you would sell it to her after such a phone call... then it goes into the next manila envelope. If you would demur... then you are allowed to retire it.)

It's an instructive parable. But I wouldn't be telling it about something I write these days, because I don't want any editor reading in my blog about how so-and-so rejected my story... and then finding that story in the next day's mail. It just seems rude.

Then, too, I found that for some things -- notably the novel, variably called Crimp or Library of Souls, that died on me, and which... um, holy mackerel, stop the presses! I've written this same entry before, down to the very phrase "kiss and tell"!

Huh. How do you like that.

Well, anyway... when Library of Souls died in 2004, I felt it had been... overexposed. I felt the weight of the expectations of everybody to whom I had crowed, in jubilant surety, "we're almost done with the book!" It was very depressing. So I didn't want to invite so much attention to things not all the way done, things not sure of survival.

Like, you know how you don't, traditionally, tell people about the first trimester of a pregnancy? So that if you're going to miscarry, you can miscarry in peace?

But not talking about trouble and dismay, dead ends and trashed story beginnings and terror, makes this blog, frankly, duller. Pictures of kids, this story will appear here. Cute things said by kids, this story has been translated. Pictures of kids, this story is nominated for the Whosiwhatsis award. Cute things said by kids, rant about the suspension of habeas corpus. Etc.

Maybe it's time to peek out a little from behind the door.

So there's this novel I'm working on. It's a sequel to "Droplet". It may or may not be the first thing I sell, but it is (I have decided) the thing that, for now, I will write.

Novels scare the crap out of me. But, since, as you know, I am all about the spreadsheets, I have a spreadsheet -- inspired by David Moles's novel-writing spreadsheet -- for this novel. It is here and it says that, as of today, the first draft will be done on November 10th, 2007, at the rate I'm going, or on July 24th, 2007, were I to write 500 words per weekday from now until then. You can keep clicking on that link, to see how I'm doing.

There. Whew. That wasn't so bad.

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Tuesday, February 6, 2007

George and Jane

There is so much enthusiastic attention, in the circles in which I travel, paid Jane Austen, and yet no one ever seems to think of George Eliot.

I'm in the midst of The Mill on the Floss -- the first of hers I've read -- and, so far, she seems to have almost all of Austen's acuity of observation and facility with language, much of her wit, and if anything more greatness of spirit. Eliot is actually able to see those individuals -- children, servants, gypsies -- who were invisible to her great predecessor.

It is a particular delight to have children's inner lives described in something approaching Austenian vividness. The phrase "five dark minutes" occurs early in the wonderful BBC recording of The Mill on the Floss, and on hearing it I laughed so long and so loud that, as I handed him my dollar bill two or three minutes later, still in tears and giggles, the attendant at the toll plaza of the Dulles Acess Toll Road thought me very peculiar indeed.

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Friday, February 2, 2007

Pictures from Januaries

Did I mention that Aviva got to get woken up on New Years' to hear the "10...9...8...7......"?

1     2

And we played games: 1     2 (... with some lovely other kids, but rather than including them without permission I just cropped 'em.)
              photo credits: Jeanne Kramer, I think

And here's a great picture that's from almost exactly a year ago, that I never posted: 1
              photo credit: Karen J. Rosenbaum

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Thursday, February 1, 2007

disasters to hit ideomancer

So a few Wiscons ago, I started toying with the idea of writing a collborative fictional thingie using a wiki. Eventually I conned a set of excellent and wonderful folks -- Greg van Eekhout, Christopher Barzak, Elad Haber, Meghan McCarron, Tim Pratt, and Kiini Ibura Salaam -- into scribbling up a set of stories on an oddmuse wiki I threw together. Actually, thinking about it, it was me, Chris, Kiini, and Greg (with some brainstormy advice from Kelly Link), and then we stalled out sometime in 2004 and, after six months of thrashing and inattention, decided to get some fresh blood, whereupon we were reinvigorated by Meghan, Tim, and Elad....

Anyway, the result of all this highly entertaining thrashing was, as I recently learned, bought by Ideomancer and will constitute the entirety of an upcoming issue.

It's called "twenty-three small disasters".


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