Quick Update

So busy. So, so busy. Still writing, albeit not as much as I want. Only 10-15K words still to come to complete a draft of Causal Nexus. Getting there. Bear with me. Stay strong, people!

(And watch Arrow.)

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The Danger of The Not Quite Complete Outline

As I’ve mentioned in these pages before, when it comes to the ‘plotting vs. pantsing‘ debate I fall firmly into the former camp. I wouldn’t dream of starting the first draft of a book without having a well-defined outline of the high level plot, chapters to get from A to Z, and even the scenes that make up those chapters. I just don’t know where I’m going otherwise.

So when it came to starting work on my current WIP–Causal Nexus, which will be the third book in the Unity Sequence–the first thing I did was build that outline. Start to finish, all the characters, all the arcs, all done and ready to draft.

Or so I thought.

I started writing, and the first few chapters came with ease. Then, as I neared the end of part one (of three) I started to slow down. The words weren’t coming so easily, and I found I just wasn’t sitting down to write as much as I should be. For a while I assumed it was just life getting in the way; work being busy, too much other ‘stuff’ that needed doing, etc.

But then a couple of weeks ago I went to a work conference, where several colleagues who have read my first two books accosted me–in a friendly way–and demanded to know when the third one was coming out, because they were tired of waiting for it. Which is obviously a very nice thing to hear, and gave me a kick up the backside.

The day after I got home I fired up Scrivener and spent an hour poring over what I’d written so far, the character bios, the outline, the– wait, the outline. I realised that what I’d thought was a very well-defined incident at the start of act two, which kicks off the sequence of events that drives the story through to the end of the book, was in fact not very well-defined at all. Was damn near woolly, in fact. Vague.

I’m not sure how that happened; I can only assume I was in a rush to get down all the other exciting stuff that happens after that point. But regardless, I rolled up my sleeves and fixed it. Nailed those few scenes down so they made sense, flowed, and tied into other plot points both earlier and later in the story.

And what do you know? Now I’m back to full speed again. Seems that my being sub- or unconsciously aware that I didn’t-quite-100-per-cent-totally know where I was going next was making me tentative about getting to that point. Once I did–boom. Away I went.

The moral of the story here, my plotter friends, is that if you ever find your writing trundling along at less than your normal place, or worse, stalling entirely, take a good hard look at your outline. It might be a bit more… ‘pantsy’, shall we say, than you thought.

Treadmill Desk is Go Go Go

Look on my works, ye Mighty, and be jealous!

IMAG0492_BURST002After about eighteen months of using a standing desk to work from home, and loving it, last week I took the final step in banishing the sedentary aspect of working on a computer all day. I’ve been following the trends in treadmill desking over the last year or so, and particularly the amazingly in-depth Treadmill Desk Diary. It was based on the recommendations there that I bought my desk and my treadmill. And the colours even match, which is a nice bonus!

So far I’m not walking constantly while I work, sometimes I just stand, but I’ve definitely been getting some good exercise. I’ve been keeping track of how many minutes I’ve done, and at what speed, and therefore my distance. The treadmill also has a calorie burn estimate, which is handy. From all of this I can say that in Week One A.T.–After Treadmill–I walked 36.1 miles and burned 5340 calories! Which is pretty badass.

If you’re interested in learning more about the terrifying dangers of a sedentary lifestyle, or ‘How Your Chair Is Killing You’, have a read of this report from the President’s Council on Not Being So Overweight And Unhealthy That You Die at Forty Fitness, Sports and Nutrition. If tl;dr, the headline is ‘Stand Up, Sit Less, Move More, More Often’. Which is really just common sense, but it does take a bit of effort to put it into practice. You don’t need to go the whole way and get the same setup as me–and that wouldn’t even be possible for a lot of people who work in normal offices, rather than at home–but try standing up to work once in a while. You might like it!

He’s Only Gone and Actually Written Something

Yup. Much like Hercules still finding time to stay in shape and have great hair whilst completing his twelve labours, yours truly has found time in his busy schedule of working, sleeping, playing Red Dead Redemption, watching Sherlock, thinking about the Sherlock I just watched, and wishing there were more than three episodes of Sherlock in a season, to actually write some more of my soon-to-be-nearly-upcoming novella – the very science-fictionally titled Causal Nexus.

Entirely gratuitous picture of BC to attract clicks. Hi there, people who were expecting a post about Sherlock!

Chapter six is in the bag, and that’s six of my seven characters introduced. One more chapter will complete the cast, and also act one of the book, which with a gentle, not-quite-literary-but-getting-there pace quite unlike that of the first two books in the series, sets the scene.

Then in act two everything starts going to shit for everybody, which is much more my usual speed. Fun!

If I can get some momentum going I should be able to knock out the rest of the draft in fairly short order. It is, after all, a novella, not a novel, so isn’t likely to run much more than about 50,000 words. I’ve got a third of that done already, so another couple of months at a decent clip should get a draft done. Then it’ll be time to bring in the editor, rustle up a cover, try to remember how to compile ebooks and do paperback layouts, and all that jazz.

Onward! Also: upward!

China on the Moon, Doctor on TV, X-Men at the Movies

Chang’e 3 sticks the landing, and takes home the gold medal in the individual lunar lander parallel bars. That gives China its seventeenth gold in these Olympics.

Wonderful footage from Chang’e 3 as it touches down. This makes China only the third nation in history to land a craft on the Moon, decades after the United Kingdom and Italy both achieved the feat in the 1950s*, their years-long rivalry having driven a technological renaissance that made the European Union the world-leading scientific powerhouse it remains today**.

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I’m Reading Stephen King’s ‘The Stand’ And I Have No Idea What It’s About

Yet, I should say. Grabbed you with that controversial headline, though, didn’t I? Hopefully some of King’s many fans rushed here to defend his work in my comments section. (Hi!)

But no–I’m talking about the rare and happy occurrence of starting to read, watch or otherwise consume a book, movie, TV show or other art with absolutely no idea of what the story is about. Because how often does that happen these days?

I’ve heard of The Stand, obviously. I know some people think it’s King’s best book, and that others insist it’s overwrought, overblown, and in need of a good editor. I know that my mum started watching the TV adaptation some years back and gave up a few episodes in.

And that’s all I knew when I saw a copy on the shelf of the second-hand bookstore two blocks away from the new apartment in Washington, D.C. into which Mrs. Dan and I recently moved, priced at what seemed like a bargain $3.00. (The book, not the apartment. They run a little dearer than that.)

Stephen King for three dollars? And it’s a thick one,” thought I. Thumbed it open. “Small print, too. This’ll keep me going for a while.” Closed the book again, looked at the cover. ‘The Complete and Uncut Edition’, it says, and the brief foreword promised 150,000 words, or 500 pages, more story than the already lengthy version that was originally published.

No blurb on the back cover, no clue to the story. Just a black and white photo of an unsmiling King from twenty-odd years ago. And on the cover, a figure on horseback wielding a scythe.

Well, people are going to die in it, I can tell that much.” And I paid my money, and I took my new book home.

It doesn’t actually matter what The Stand is about, and I won’t risk robbing anyone of the same experience I’ve had by describing it. But it did make me think a little about what we’ve lost in this age of constant, immediate, instantaneous media. We’re flooded with trailers, reviews, articles and blogs, each movie studio or television network desperate to shove their product in front of our eyeballs, and a million other internet denizens waiting to pronounce it good, or bad, or simply broadcast that it exists.

God forbid if you haven’t seen the latest episode of Breaking Bad because you’re planning to watch it later. You’d better stay off the internet until you do. (And just to be on the safe side, don’t go to work either.)

We buy books and movies because we read reviews, and plot teasers, and friends tell us “Dude, you have to watch My New Favourite Show. It’s about this geography teacher from Arizona who has Alzheimer’s but becomes a Mafia don in New Jersey before faking his own death and joining the Baltimore police force. It’s fantastic. Netflix it. I’m on season eight.”

I loved The Avengers. And I’m already pretty damn excited about the sequel. So far all I know is it’s coming out in May 2015, and someone or something called Ultron is in it, but I’m sketchy enough on my Avengers canon that I don’t know what that is. But I guarantee that by late April 2015, I’ll know exactly who stars in the movie, who all the new characters are, what Ultron is, and will have seen four different trailers containing 90% of the best scenes from the film. Because I’m weak, and I won’t be able to help myself.

But wouldn’t it be nice, just once, to not have those teasers, those tasters, the constant little dribbles of information that leak out and draw us in? To go back to finding out about a film by seeing a poster for it on the side of a bus stop two weeks before it came out? Or discovering a great new TV show by flicking through channels one night and being gripped by a great scene? Or discovering a new book not by browsing a list of what customers who bought that item also bought, but by wandering into a second-hand bookshop that you didn’t even know was there and just picking one up off the shelf?

You can still do that last one, at least. And you should, I highly recommend it. Because, you see, The Stand is about–

“The 7 Most Common Misconceptions About Science Fiction Publishing” from io9

Worth a read for any writers aspiring to be published by Tor, Orbit et al. Prepare to have your illusions shattered! (Maybe.)

2) When you’ve published a book, you’re immediately a famous author

Often it seems as though people believe that “as soon as you’ve had a book published you’ve made it somehow,” says Jonathan Oliver with Solaris Publishing. In reality, “it can take a long time to build up a profile as a writer and, unless you’re immensely lucky, your first published novel isn’t immediately going to shoot you into stardom and untold wealth. You don’t just write a book and rest on your laurels. You build up a reputation one book at a time.”

Yup, much like being a recovering alcoholic, becoming a famous author is a long process. Full piece here.