December 12th, 2007


[links] Link salad, hump day edition

Balloon blamed for $100,000 in burned art — I for one welcome our new lighter-than-air overlords.

A user reviews Mainspring Powell's | Amazon | Audible ]

Human Evolution Speeding Up — Hmm... Same story, different source.

Electronic Bubble Wrap Keychain — :: wants :: (Thanks to sheelangig.)

Communicating with Plastic — Tabletop networking?

The poet who could smell vowels — This is very cool.

Arctic summers ice-free 'by 2013' — Obviously just another liberal lie metastasized in the gullible media.

On the Torturable and the Untorturable — Read this, and ask yourself what we Americans have become.

[process] Developmental Anatomy of a Book

As some of you may know, I am currently writing a novel entitled Green. In my continuing quest to explain how this business works (to myself, at least), I'm going to share a few bits of history and process here.

"Green" was a short story which appeared in Aeon issue 5, in December, 2005. (If you're curious, see the Tangent Online review here.) Some time after I'd written it, I drafted a novel proposal entitld Green Crossing, which was subsequent to the events of the short story. I didn't do anything with the proposal at the time except stick it in my metaphorical drawer.

Fast forward to this past summer. I workshopped one of the several other short stories I've written in that setting at Rio Hondo. One of the other writers there, a much bigger name than I, got interested in the setting and asked if I had other work there. I showed her "Green." She urged me to write a novel in the setting. I mentioned this in passing to casacorona, who then looked over both the story and the original proposal. She concurred.

Fast forward again to this fall. I had discussions with casacorona and arcaedia (along with mcurry, kenscholes, lasirenadolce and a few other folks) about what I should be writing next. Black Tulip had been on the dance card for a while, but it wasn't feeling quite right to me. Based on feedback from those discussions I decided to revisit Green, and wrote a revised proposal which folded the story and the old proposal into one work.

So, I went from short story to proposal to novel, in that order.

Now, consider Tuesday night's effort. When I ceased writing that evening, I was at 11,900 words in the manuscript. That took me to the end of the second sentence of the outline, about fifty words in. (Out of fourteen pages, mind you.) That corresponds pretty tightly to about 1,800 words of the short story, which in its entirety at 6,700 words maps to the first act of the novel structure as outlined.

Obviously I'm not going to write 6,000 words for every sentence of the outline. At least, I don't think so. To some degree, this is throat clearing. This novel also requires a lot of character development and set up — a long runway, basically, for it to properly take flight. I also can't tell you if most or all of this first 11,900 words will survive into the final draft, though I suspect the bulk of it will.

Still, what happens to this story is an interesting process. The short story was like blowing up a balloon. The outline deflated it to a core essential. The novel then reinflating to a much larger size, with more fine grained detail and great deal of additional character and plot development.

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And the current work in progress snippets here and here, excerpted from the novel manuscript.

What's that tell me? I'm not sure. It tells me that I can play with idea sizing to all sorts of effect, I suppose. What's that tell you? Maybe nothing, but I found it interesting. As the novel unfolds, this tight correspondence with the source material will loosen, then unravel completely in the course of me uncovering the narrative. Right now it's unusually clear. I wanted to capture that moment.