April 2nd, 2012

a-links

[links] Link salad dances country

"The Weight of History, the Lightness of the Future"Subterranean Press publishes a Sunspin novella. For those particularly interested in the series, this piece occurs immediately prior to the events of book one, Calamity of So Long a Life.

Is “Game of Thrones” too white?Fantasy fiction might have racial problems, but they're just a reflection of America's broader battles. Saladin Ahmed at Salon.

Ever the Reluctant Warrior, I Take Up My Sword for Justice — Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha.

Yesterday, I was silly, too: [ jlake.com | LiveJournal ] — Some of the comments are comedy gold.

Young Writers Dazzle Publisher (Mom and Dad) — Self-publishing and kids. Interesting. (Via my Dad.)

Tungurahua Erupts — Wow. Just wow. This photo...

A universe without purposeNew revelations in science have shown what a strange and remarkable universe we live in.

Romney: Uninsured with preexisting conditions should be denied coverage — Disgusting. See my comment yesterday about how conservative positions affect people personally.

I trust government more than insurance companiesThe government has at least a theoretical interest in keeping its citizens healthy and productive. The government is accountable to the voters and taxpayers, that is, to us. Insurance companies have only one interest -- profit. And they are essentially accountable to no one. Yep, market-based solutions for the win!

Debunking Canadian health care mythsIt is becoming increasingly more difficult to dispute the fact that Canada spends less money on health care to get better outcomes. That would be a little something we call a "fact". If you're a conservative opposed to healthcare reform, then pretty much by definition you're unaware of and/or impervious to the existence of these "facts".

Charlie Petit on the GOP vice presidential selection — Hahahah.

A widening gender gap boosts Obama over Romney — Oddly enough, if your party declares war on women, women don't like it that much… No one could have predicted this!

Ann Romney is the Romney Democrats fear most

?otd: Where did you come from, where did you go?




4/2/2012
Writing time yesterday: 6.5 hours (Reviewing existing draft of Their Currents Turn Awry, added 1,600 words; 2.25 hours of WRPA)
Body movement: 30 minute stationary bike ride
Hours slept: 6.75 (solid)
Weight: 239.2
Currently reading: The Bone Doll's Twin by Lynn Flewelling

writing-sunspin

[writing] Settling (back) into Their Currents Turn Awry

Due to the vagaries of drafting Calamity of So Long a Life, I already have 66,600 words of Their Currents Turn Awry in the can. So yesterday I started re-reading them in order to gear up for the drafting process. Wound up writing a few more words, too, adding about 1,600. It's nice to see the story on the page. And as usual for me in the midst of a large project, Sunspin is very real inside my head.

I really only need about another 70,000 words here, and I've budgeted two months to do it. That's a remarkably generous time allotment. If I wind up needing liver surgery after the April 18th oncology appointments, well, I'll keep that budget. If I'm clear for a while longer, I'll accelerate my schedule for the year, either by also writing the first part of The Whips and Scorns of Time in May, or by shifting my planned June efforts forward a month. No matter how it works out, the extra time will pay off.

Yesterday I did some proofreading as well. I also spent a bunch of time yesterday reading critique for an upcoming conference. This was the first pass. That always makes me think a lot about my own craft. I'll give those stories one or two more passes (depending on what each one needs) over the next few weeks, and have my crit in the can. My only other top-of-the-to-do-list project of note right now is to assemble the eighth grade anthology, as an outcome of my recent guest teaching gig there. Everything else is out of my hands at the moment.

The words march on.

writing-leopard_cow

[process] Analyzing the writing of Calamity of So Long a Life

As I mentioned over the weekend, Calamity of So Long a Life is finally off my desk and out into the world. More about that when there's more to report.

Now that I'm embarking on Their Currents Turn Awry, this seems like a good time to review what I've done with Calamity. Checking my production information, I find the following:

150.0 hours of writing (includes the synopsis, and about 65,000 words of Currents)
90.25 hours of revision
240.25 hours total

If I fudge out 32.5 hours for the work that has turned into the first part of Their Currents Turn Awry, using an assumed base production rate of 2,000 words per hour, that still leaves me with the following:

117.5 hours of writing time (includes the synopsis)
90.25 hours of revision
207.75 hours total

I can further fudge out 75.5 hours for the work on drafting Calamity of So Long a Life, in order to break out the outlining process from the drafting process, I get the following:

42.0 hours of writing time (outline)
75.5 hours of writing time (first draft)
90.25 hours of revision
207.75 hours total

In effect, I wrote the first draft of Calamity of So Long a Life at roughly the same clip I've been drafting for a long while, since I deliberately applied the brakes to slow myself down. As I have discussed a number of occasions, that's 1,800 words an hour, with bursts up to 2,500 words an hour. I average about 2,000 words an hour over a large scale project.

One thing that is different about this book is that I expended a very large amount of time on the outline, both in up front effort and in ongoing tweaks once the project was underway. As it currently stands, the outline is about 120 pages long, totaling 28,400 words in its own right. I haven't even accounted for all the time on the outline prior to 2011, as I'd been prethinking and making notes on Sunspin for several years prior to that.

Another thing that is different about this book is that I've greatly expanded the amount of time spent on revisions. For productivity planning purposes, I used to estimate 100 hours to write a 200,000 word first draft, and another 50 hours for revisions. In other words, revisions consumed 50% of the time that a first draft consumed. What has happened on Calamity is that revisions now consume 120% of the time that the first draft consumed.

Even in just drafting this blog post, I am surprised by these numbers. I hadn't realized how much time I'd sunk into revisions. It's not surprising in retrospect, as I added two major steps to my process as compared to prior books. But still... As for the outline, I've known all along that Sunspin has been requiring a radically different investment in that part of the process. And it has really paid off.

Both of these trends are almost certainly very good things. Is it taking me longer to write a book with the expanded prep time and the expanded revision time? Obviously. Considerably longer. But writing isn't a horse race, and nobody gives out medals for being fast. Because I believe that by taking all this extra time both before and after executing the first draft, I'm writing a much, much better book.

Or at any rate, I really hope so. If I'm not improving, I'm doing it wrong.

First drafts have always been the most joyous part of the process for me. They still are. Discovering the story, seeing it unroll onto the page, is where I get my greatest writer yayas. All this time spent on the synopsis and the revision? That's me maturing and developing as a writer. Giving you more reader yayas, ideally.

I'm already applying these expanded processes to both Little Dog: Son of a Bitch (co-authored under [info]bravado111's guidance) and to Their Currents Turn Awry. I haven't yet seen validation from the market, the critics or the readers, but I really believe in these changes, and trust that others will, too. And as always, I'm looking forward to whatever happens next.

This is a fun, fun career.




Note: I know some people take considerable exception when I make these very metrics-driven process posts. Please understand that I use this kind of thinking in two places.

One, when I'm budgeting my writing time a year or two ahead, so I know what I can produce in what time frames.

Two, after the fact, when I'm looking to derive lessons learned from a project. As in this post right here.

When I'm actually doing the writing, in the flow, I barely think about this stuff at all. Story comes first, always. But in order to be a competent, deadline oriented professional, it's important to me and my process to understand the underpinnings. Hence the quantitative analysis.