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An author of no particular popularity

Jay Lake
Date: 2012-02-19 07:08
Subject: [writing] The state of play
Security: Public
Tags:antarctica, books, calamity, cancer, currents, endurance, health, kalimpura, process, stories, sunspin, writing
So a bit of writing updatery. This is for my benefit as well as for your information.

Calamity of So Long a Life is nearly done. I may be through the revisions today, having about half a dozen revision notes left, plus a couple of word hunts to do. There are two exceptions to this hoped-for state of done-ness.

One, a common thread in my last-first reader feedback arises from people having a bit of trouble about what are essentially deep structural choices in the book. This decomposes into two issues. First, the narrative is structured thriller style, with multiple separated plot threads featuring characters who are ultimately going to converge on a common conflict point, but because this is a multivolume story, they don't all do their converging in Calamity. That has left some readers feeling a bit confused about how character A relates to, say, character D. Second, because of the multivolume nature of the project, the various plot threads don't all come to neat resolution. I don't really know how to address the questions being raised without seriously altering the structure, which would compromise my vision of the books. Instead I've done my best to tweak the narratives. It feels a bit like putting a band-aid on a broken bone, given that some surface polish doesn't really change the structural issues.

Second, I am still wrestling with the whole reading aloud question (as recently discussed here: [ jlake.com | LiveJournal ]). Per a commentor's suggestion, I've downloaded an application called GhostReader, which I tested with some good effect on my draft of "The Woman Who Shattered the Moon." I have another ten days before my (self-imposed) deadline to have this manuscript into la agente, which is probably enough time to run the whole thing through the text-to-speech app and listen to it. I'm just having to speak sharply to myself to convince me that this is going to be a worthwhile use of another week and a half of my precious writing time.

Once Calamity is turned in, I'll spend the balance of my time through the end of March working on several other projects. These include a book synopsis for Little Dog with J.A. Pitts (urban fantasy about a Portland werewolf with achondroplastic dwarfism), as well book proposals for the Antarctica project (nonfiction about going to extremes with cancer) and a possible collection of my flash fiction.

On the short fiction front, I have three requested stories to write, though two of them aren't due until much later in the year. One is a religious themed piece, one is another Cthulhu pastiche, and the last is a novella for the Fathomless Abyss project.

Come April, I'll dive back into Sunspin, where I'll need to write about 100,000 words of first draft to round out book two, Their Currents Turn Awry. I've budgeted April and May for that, though it will probably not take me two months. Plus at some point copy edits for Kalimpura will turn up, as well as page proofs for the Endurance paperback release, and I'm sure other miscellaneous items as well.

My writing year beyond May is unclear, because with the new cancer information, the odds that I'll be going back into treatment in late May or early June are pretty high. That means another six months or so of productivity lost to surgery and chemo. As I did in 2011, I structured my 2012 goals as a forked path — the healthy goals and the cancer goals — and I'll still meet my cancer goals regardless of what happens.

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User: jackwilliambell
Date: 2012-02-19 17:22 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
RE: the structure issue. Have you thought about including some framing scenes set later in the storyline that show what the relationships between the characters are, but which avoid introducing plot spoilers? I suspect that kind of thing would be difficult to do well, but it wouldn't require you to change the novels structure. And it has the advantage of setting up something that your readers will want to read the next book just to find out exactly how the characters got into whatever bizarre situation you show them getting into.
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User: a_cubed
Date: 2012-02-20 01:15 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
The separate tracks don't need to converge within each book, so much as you need to make the linkages clear for the reader. Thinking back to books I've read which have done this well, I think one trick is to use convergent imagery as much as you can so that there's clearly a common thread running through. Not being a pre-reader I can't say how much you've got spearate narrative voices and styles for the different threads but some books that I think haven't worked on this have included things which are all too different: voice, tone, imagery. For a novel in which everything collides within the space of that one novel, this can provide an intense moment of climax, but where this climax won't appear until a future book, to much disparity which is then not paid off can be jarring. The other thing that comes to mind is to try and tie up every thread with one other thread in some minor but explicit way so that you have a round-robin connection between everything. Foreshadowing some of the climactic collisions with characters speculating about where things might go and having characters in two threads each speculate about the same collision, but each of them (when you do the collision in the later book) turn out to be wrong in the same way, could be a really fun way of solving the current dilemma without "giving away the plot" as Kenny Everett would say.
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User: shelly_rae
Date: 2012-02-27 01:17 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
To quote the musical...
It's no sicker
Than your thing with dwarves.</p>



Dwarfs are every upsetting."

What IS your thing about dwarves?

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