Yesterday I sat down with the Spokesbear, a bunch of e-mail, my copy of Jeff VanderMeer’s Booklife, and a notepad to construct my to-do list for the rest of the year. It’s a habit I fell into a few years back (well, sans the Booklife part, but I suspect I’ll be rereading it often in July’s to come); those who’ve been following the blog for a while might remember the 80-Point-Plant for Awesomeness that resulted from last year’s state-of-the-union style gutcheck. Usually I’m pretty quiet about the results, but after reviewing my issues with last years list I’m going to go public with the writing portion of the process this year. It’s somewhat long. Sorry about that. If you want to skip it, I promise there will be more cat-sitting stories tomorrow.
Some thoughts on the list before we kick off:
– There’s a large amount of background work that goes into the decision of what to do with the next six months, much of which focuses on what I want from writing and particularly mistakes or poorly executed goals I put together over the last year. The original version of this post saw a rather extensive catalogue of the thinking, but I cut it back in the interests of not making this any longer than it needs to be. If you’re really interested in getting up-close and personal with the darker goal-setting patches of my psyche, I can do so in comments or a future blog-post.
– One of the things I’m putting more effort into over the next six months is running some form of publically accountable metric to keep me on-track. Most of the time it’s going to be limited to an footer at the base of regular blog posts, but once a month I’ll post the full to-do list with updates and things crossed off the list.
– The assumptive wordcount-per-day needed to achieve the following is about 4,000 words. This was picked because it’s achievable, but just outside what I usually manage when I’m focused on writing. Part of the goal over the next six months is to rebuild the routine I’ve let slide of late.
– The two most identifiable problems I’ve suffered from over the last twelve months have been succumbing fear of failure and a tendency to focus on “what comes next” rather than working towards specific goals that feed into the wants and desires that keep me writing.
The To-Do List for the Remainder of 2010
Part One: Novel Projects
1) Finish Black Candy
A hardboiled detective novel set in a futuristic Brisbane where the spirits of the dead form a hazy cloud in the sky, the military government utilizes vast ghost-generators to produce electricity, and the hero partakes of the latest party drug that rewrites the user’s gender and DNA. I’m currently trying to reconcile the ending I’ve written with the world-building that precedes it, and I’m pretty sure one of them needs to be massively changed in order to make things work.
Cool Stuff: Corpses floating in med-tanks; scary men named Rabbit; coffee; really big generators; its the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine; more noir; more hardboiled; a main character who actually likes his job.
Current Status: 12,020 words into the current draft (effectively going to be a 1st draft given the scattered I-don’t-know-what-I’m-doing approach of the previous draft).
Goal for August 31st : Finish the first draft (90,000 words). That’s 2000 words a day, on average, plus a whole lot of plot-fixin’ that needs to be done. In theory that’s eminently doable, especially with large chunks of wordcount being reworked from the previous draft.
2) Finish Claw/Fey Fatale (Miriam Aster Novella 3)
The original version of this was written when I thought of the Aster series as a “monster of the week” detective concept rather than something with a definite arc and end point (hence the discarding of said draft back in August of ’09). There’s a lot of that version that can be salvaged – I don’t see the core concept changing – but I’ll need to do a lot of reworking and add in a B-plot arc to give it series continuity.
Cool Stuff: twisting the knife in the perpetual agony that is Aster’s love life; talking cats; a sorcerer working out the back of a Chinese take-away; the return of Anya; monsters made of kitten foetus and love.
Current Status: Re-reading the previous draft to figure out what can be salvaged.
Goal for August 31st: Put some thought into the new plotline.
Deadline: TBA after talking with Alisa at TPP
3) Draft Ghoul Moon (aka the Swashbuckley-Wahoo!-Lovecraftian-Ghoul novel)
In Brief: Swashbuckling fantasy set in an eldritch city hidden beyond space and time, where a mortal hero is teamed up with a half-immortal ghoul sorcerer to determine who is killing off the immortal nobility. I signed up for the QWC’s Year of the Novel course with Trent Jamieson back in January under the assumption that Bleed was almost done (ha!) and Black Candy would be easy to revise (double ha!). There have been dribs and drabs of work getting done around other projects, primarily in response to writing exercises in classes, but it’s starting to hit the point where it’s a hindrance not to have it more substantially developed.
Cool Stuff: faction warfare; fencing; The Duke of Viscera and the Viscount of Entrails; people swinging on chandeliers while wearing fancy hats; things fluttering behind the curtain of darkness just outside the city walls; an entire city that stands apart from the rest of the universe by devouring moons one after the other.
Current Status: neglected and causing guilt. I hereby give myself permission to neglect this book without guilt until Black Candy and Claw are done, after which it can occupy my full attention.
Deadline: End of Year
The other long projects that, baring other circumstances, I’d really like to get done in the next three years:
– Fracture/The Glorious Death of Doc Mosaic (pulp hero serial killer police procedural; possibly in space; Status: Moderately detailed plan put together on the flight to and from Adelaide last year)
– Hello Kitty Gasmask Girl (sequel to Black Candy; Status: 2000 words of intro and a rough list of ideas and cool things to insert)
– Slow Fall (Bored Oscar Wilde-esque character engages in escapades on a decadent generation ship slowly falling into a black hole. Status: Poked occasionally while I’m waiting for the concept to settle into place)
– Red Rain (Zombie Noir detective novel. Status: Waiting for me to get the noir out of my system so I can be sure I really want to write it)
– The Shoe Store Suicides (Mosaic narrative about shoe stores, the people who commit suicides in front of them, and the employee who objects to their choices; Status: Big list of ideas, no writing as yet)
– Crow Boy War (Downside Novel I abandoned in 2008 due to not knowing what I was doing. Status: About 40,000 words of draft, some of which may be salvageable)
– Gothic: A Love Story (YA urban fantasy novel with Gothic overtones; Status: 7500 words plus planning)
– Miriam Aster Novellas 4-6 (second series of books follow-ups to Horn/Bleed/Claw should we want to keep producing them; Status: Rough plan pitched to TPP)
– The Last Great House of Isla Tortuga (Expanding the short story which appeared in Dreaming Again; Status: In need of research regarding Piracy and life at sea in the time period)
– Masked Wrestlers of Mars (A Barsoom-esque tribute to Mexican Wrestling Films; Status: Opening image, plus a rough plan developing)
Part Two: Short Fiction Submissions
Submission Status: There are currently 7 submissions out there, although one has been out for over a year and is old enough that it should be trunked anyway so we’re going to call it six instead. Of those 6 stories there’s only one that’s old enough to have seen most of the markets I regularly submit too. This is a slightly better situation than I thought I was in – it appears I have been getting my butt into gear after all those blog posts where I was freaking out about not doing enough short fiction – but it needs to be better. My personal comfort zone in terms of the number of finished stories out and submitted lies between 15 and 20 active submissions, which means there needs to be fifteen to twenty stories given my reluctance to simultaneously submit (even to markets who are open to such things).
I have a fairly large folder full of stories in various states of completion, so I’ve gone through and nominated fifteeen of them as “2010” projects that will need to be finished by the end of the year. They’ve largely been picked because they focus on things I want to get better at (third person POV, writing particular genres), or because they’ll get me used to revisiting worlds I plan to revisit in novel form one day, or because they’re sufficiently different to the types of stories I’ve been writing in terms of themes or voice that they’ll help refresh my palate of writing tools. All title are working titles and subject to being replaced. Stories marked with an asterisk can be swapped out of the list for another idea as long as the reasoning isn’t “whim” or “I’d like to write that story more.”
The Short Story To-Do List
The Moloch Alley Stories
After I put together the Clockwork Goat and the Smokestack Magi for the Shimmer Clockwork Jungle Book I ended up brainstorming a bunch of things I wanted to do with the voice and world of the story.
– The Gallows Magus and the Queen of the Winter Seas (Empire hires a magical assassin to kill the mermaid he fell in love with as youth. Hilarity ensues. Status: Partially drafted before hitting plot problems)
– The Sabres of Moloch Alley* (Mostly this is just a title and a rough idea about the protagonists; Status: Unwritten)
– The Legions of the Red Sand (An attempt at secondary-world fantasy using the Australian outback as the basis of the setting, with French Foreign Legion influences. Status: Unwritten, but plenty of pre-planning and the voice is more-or-less settled upon)
I’ve been meaning to write more stories set in the world of Clockwork, Patchwork and Raven for two years now, but I’ve always set them aside because they never synced up with the impulse that made the first story fun to write (basically: what happens when you put a fairytale hero in a cyberpunkish setting). They’re starting to hit now-or-never status in terms of whether they’ll get done, so they’re on the list.
– Never Fall in Love With a Dead Girl (Started writing this a while back as the Soldier Boy & Dead Girl Molly. It’s still looking for a plot; Status: Partially drafted)
– Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Crow Boy (Follow-up to Clockwork, Patchwork, Ravens written from Rose’s POV; Status: Opening drafted)
– Number One Crush* (Heist story using one of the Downside gangs as the victims. Status: Untouched and in need of a title that doesn’t reference a Garbage song)
Ghoul Moon Stories
These occupy the bottom of the list because they’ve had the least thought put into them. The goal is twofold: explore the setting I’m planning on using for the Ghoul Moon novel above, and figure out how to write sword-and-sorcery.
– The Street of a Thousand Spices*
– The Six Deaths that plagued Festival of Carrion*
– The Duel You Cannot Win*
Stories utterly unconnected to novel projects
– The Unicorns of Suffragette 3 (There are unicorns on a space station. The Goblin King objects to this. Status: About a thousand words and growing)
– The Exodus (A small outback town in quarantined after a glowing pillar of light starts calling people into it. Status: Partially drafted, but needs a point beyond the initial concept)
– The Birthday Party (Luck as a trade good. Status: Partially drafted)
– Untitled Egypian Mummy Story (A guy finds out the girl he’s dating was possessed by the spirit of an Egyptian mummy fifteen years ago. Status: About 1200 words in)
– Trainspotting* (A bunch of people are called upon to haunt the ghost of the last train after the lines are shut down. Status: Partially drafted, but in danger of becoming a rehash of old themes. Also needs a better title)
– Pickets, Memories, and Tethers (Ghost story that’s been kicking around my files since Clarion. Status: Mostly done)
Current Partial Story Drafts Sitting in the Future Projects sub-folder: 73 and change (I’m not counting the files that consist of fifty first line exercises or titles in search of a story)
Current Writing Metrics
Consecutive Days Writing (500+ words): 1
New Short Stories Sent Into the Wild: 9/30
Rejections in 2010: 12/100
Black Candy Word Count (Finish Date: 31st August)