Whew! After a whirlwind of Weird and Largely Unpleasant, things are finally getting normal again, in that ‘life is mostly awesome’ normal kind of way that I had grown accustomed to. I’m still financially screwed, but hey, I’ve been there before and I know the territory. Not a big deal. eBay and I will get cozy for a while. The rest is sorting itself out, and I think that by the end of April a lot of life’s little ambiguities will be eliminated one way or another.
The most notable immediate change is the writing. I completely changed my process recently. I used to barrel through a draft and hope for the best, knowing it would suck and would need a ton of revision. I found over time that when I do that I can’t see the forest for the trees, and editing takes months.
Disclaimer: I am not advising that anyone try what I’m doing right now. Writing at top speed to get a draft down works very well for many people, maybe most people. It just wasn’t working for me anymore.
So what I did this time was write something that isn’t quite an outline. I took one writing session to write a couple of pages of the things I see in my head, grouped in roughly the structure that I think I want the story to have. It looked a lot like a poem on the page when it was done, but it had the images, it had the beats, it had the structure and hinted at the pace.
Then I started writing based on that, filling in the prose around it. I’m only writing about a page a night, and I’m laboring over sentences and word choices in what is essentially a first draft. But the thing is, I’m not hating what I have so far. That’s pretty exciting. It will still need a lot of work, but I think it’s a better first draft than most of mine historically have been. It will be easier to edit, too, I think, because it isn’t nearly as over-written as my past efforts have been.
There was a time when one page a night would have been unacceptable to me, but right now it is progress and I need that sense of progress to keep the Fail at bay. Besides, it worked for Cory Doctorow, I don’t see why it can’t work for me. I am hoping that even at this slow pace I will produce a submission-ready story once a month. (They still need to go through revision and critique, of course.)
This story is another challenging one, and I’m writing without a net, but I like it that way. Reading slush has really made me want to stretch beyond what I was doing. I know what bores me as a slush reader now (and for what it’s worth, I am not a casual couple-of-stories-on-the-weekend slush reader. More on that in a moment.) I am at war with mediocrity in my writing right now, and it’s a war I intend to win.
Speaking of slush, I finally started tracking what I was reading. The system I’m working in doesn’t really allow me to get stats on how much I’ve read and recommended, so I started a spreadsheet of my own. I wanted to do this both for the satisfaction I get in seeing the numbers (Useful Yant is Useful!) but also because I wanted to remember the ones I recommend. I can tell you that in the past 10 days I’ve read 79 stories and recommended 13.
Naturally I thought to do this three weeks before submissions close for the season. Ah well. I’ll have it at the ready when it reopens in June.
I suspect that there are some topics I could pull out of the slushing experience that would be of interest to some of my friends out there. I’ll talk to the boss and see if it’d be cool if I blogged more about that.
Anyway, we have normality. My friends are back from their respective cons, I’m writing, I’m staying caught up on the other stuff, I’m doing a bunch of responsible grown-up stuff to keep things running smoothly, and it’s all okay.