Slow Going

I’ve gotten slow.

Normally it shouldn’t take more than two weeks for a novelette. Here I am at a solid week and I still haven’t finished a short story. It’s not because I don’t know how the story goes, I do. It’s not because I’m not working on it, I am. Not really sure about the because, actually, but I’ve got my suspicions.

To begin at the beginning, I’m a member of a flash fiction writer’s group. I’ve been in writer’s groups before. Back in Mississippi we had a very successful writer’s group that produced several published stories and even one Nebula nomination (not me, alas). I hesitated about joining the local group simply because it was flash fiction, which I’ve never been a fan of, but I was curious about the local scene, so I finally put my misgivings aside and very glad I did. It’s a talented bunch and flash has its own challenges. When I think of flash, I think of anything under about 1500 words. Nuh-uh. Here we have 500. Max. Some groups go even shorter.

Start with a challenge word. We write whatever we want, but it has to include the challenge word for the week. Three of those week’s words resulted in new Yamada stories. In 500 words. Still wrapping my head around that one myself. Naturally enough, for each of those I had to leave a lot out and imply a lot more…which meant I naturally wanted to expand them. The first one sold to BCS last spring. Working on the second one now and have plans for the third, but here’s the thing–I am writing very slowly. Yes, now we’re back to the subject of this digression. Which there wouldn’t be room for in flash, but there you go.

I think flash has me in the habit of drafting more carefully. Fine in a rewrite, but it tends to hamper things on a first draft. First draft should be more like careening down a hillside on a bike with no brakes. Even so, I usually end up with a 6-7 hundred word draft that has to be cut to 500. So when I do the same thing on a story that would normally run in the 3000+ word range, that doesn’t work as well. It slows you down.

Now that I’m aware of the problem, I can make a conscious effort to fix it. But of course first I had to become conscious that there was a problem. Which I should have realized when it took me six months to write a novella when I’ve finished full novels in three. Or an entire week to only get two thousand words of what I think will be a 3500 word story, once I’ve put in all the stuff I had to leave out the first time.

Wisdom is uncertain. Learning is optional, but better than not.

Doh, a Deer

Speaking of ivory towers (as I was last week)—I don’t have one. So it was no surprise that last Friday I was out mowing our back terrace. As I did so I noticed something moving on the rather steep wooded hillside that is our backdrop. You likely won’t be able to see it from this angle, but she still has her spots. Rapidly losing them, of course, almost grown-up but not quite.

We looked at each other for a moment and she suddenly decided to run over to our neighbor’s hillside. Then she was peering at me through the hedge, and then she came back. I don’t know why. Curious about what I was doing, or maybe it was the scent of all that lovely mown grass. I was able to get a couple of decent shots off my phone from the bench where I was taking a break.

Actually, we see them a lot here. Rather unlike back in MS, where it was unusual to see a deer on your daily grind because they knew better. Then a section of the new Natchez Trace got completed around Jackson and that changed. Then you saw them all the time, because they quickly figured out they were in a state park and no one was going to shoot them there. It’s pretty much the same here, so far as in town. No hunting in the city limits, and it’s not season yet anyway. So the deer come and go as they please. I know they’ve turned into pests in some neighborhoods, and last year the heirloom  tomato plant I almost but not quite got tomatoes from was eaten by the deer…after the squirrels and chipmunks had already made off with the tomatoes.

Funny thing though, I don’t really mind. They were here first, after all. We just need to learn to get along.

The novella project is almost done. That is, the first of two scenes..sections, really, is done, with one to go, only now I realize there’s one more after that. Brief, but necessary. At this rate it’ll be just shy of proper novel length, but still the most substantial thing I’ve managed since The Emperor in Shadow.

I’ve been wanting to write more short stories, but I really need to finish the Laws of Power series first. We’ll see how that goes.

Not Quite All

Fan mail is not so common that I get blasé about it. Last week I got a message from a gentleman who had read all the Yamada books, loved them, and was wondering if there would be any more. So far as the novels go, the short answer is “no.” By no, of course, I mean probably not, because I’m no better at predicting the future than anyone else, and that includes many futurists.

To my own surprise, I knew Yamada would be a series when I wrote the first ever short story (“Fox Tails)” set in his version of Heian Period Kyoto (called Heian-kyo, up until his time). Furthermore, I knew the series had a definite story arc from the time I wrote the second ever Yamada story, “Moon Viewing at Shijo Bridge.” Every story since then progressed along that arc until it was concluded in The Emperor in Shadow, the fourth book.

Now here’s where it gets complicated. Life stories, as in the story of anyone’s life, also have an arc. There’s a point where you enter the story, and inevitably, a point where you leave it. But here’s the difference—the story itself doesn’t end. It just continues with new people. Fiction isn’t like that. I thought Yamada had left the story, and that was that so far as the series was concerned. It wasn’t.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I recently wrote a new Yamada story. That was a total surprise to me. Now I think I may do a few more. He’s not quite done, and so neither am I. Together with the stories so far uncollected, I do imagine another Yamada collection is possible, but another novel? Seems like a long shot right now. I almost wish I could give a definitive yes or no, but the truth is I don’t really know, and I can’t pretend that I do.

As for the novella project (totally non-Yamada), I have two more major scenes to write after working backward to tackle some structural issues. This too could be a series. I don’t know that, either.

 

Almost There

The project is approaching conclusion. It’s not there yet, but I feel it’s past its crisis point and will be completed to the first draft stage soon. Which is not really completed, of course. Lots to do after that before it’s done and available, but now I feel confident it’ll get there.

I was beginning to wonder. Right now I’m projecting the final length to be about 35k, decent novella size. I’ve written complete novels in just under three months, and I’ve been working on this one for over six. It shouldn’t have taken this long. Only it did, and my fussing about it now won’t change anything.

When searching for a little perspective, I remind myself that my very first novel (which, fortunately, will never see the light of day) took five years to write. The extra time did not make for a better book, but I learned a lot. The second was better, both for quality and time. I forget who said that no writing is ever wasted. I”m sure that’s true, because it’s the process that teaches you, not the final result. That’s just the grade.

 

Present, With an Explanation

I’m late, by a whole day. It was almost two.

It couldn’t be avoided. We had to make a trip to Saratoga Springs yesterday because First Reader is getting stem cell treatment in her wonky knees. We figured we’d take a shot at rebuilding the knees almost from scratch rather than proceeding directly to the bionic route of joint replacement. We’ll see how it turns out, but the treatments require a trip to the clinic, about an hour and a half from here, plus treatment time so we didn’t get back to very late.

Today, had to make a trip to Utica to replace a piece of online equipment that was malfunctioning. Then make a return trip via the scenic route because our GPS doesn’t distinguish between “most direct” and “easiest.” Regardless, we got some lovely views of the Mohawk Valley from the surrounding hills. Reminded us just how beautiful the place we live is.

Anyway, more an explanation than an actual blog post. I will say the current project is showing signs of life, but I was wrong about it in one regard—I thought it was a novel. Now I’m convinced it’s going to be a novella, maybe in 30k range. I’ll know for sure in the next ten pages or so. Either way, whatever it is,  I’ll try to make it a good one.