Thursday, July 31, 2014

Sailing Venus: The story so far

The other day I gave my eldest, Monkey Girl, a copy of the Writers of the Future anthology containing my story "Cyclops in B Minor." She'd complained in the past, "When are you going to write something that I can read?" Much of my output is written for older audiences, and as such I'm not comfortable with my kids reading it. Ever. But here's a girl who's devoured Hunger Games and Doomsday Book and a hundred others besides, so I think, "Hey, I do have some published stories she might like." So I gave her the anthology, knowing that a mere manuscript wouldn't impress her as legit.

So after a couple days of ignoring it, she came into my office as I worked on Sailing Venus with an odd look on her face. "Why is there a cyclops there? Is he just chillin'? Where'd he come from? How can he see music?" The barrage of questions caught me off guard. I answered honestly, but not in much detail, so as to not ruin the story with analysis. Then she just stood there, still staring at me, as if I were some unusual hamster-like creature she'd just discovered in the woods.

"What?" I said finally.

"You can, like, write." I gestured at my monitor, filled with words. "What do you think I've been doing all this time?" "Yeah, but I didn't expect it to be good."

So then she takes a keen interest in the words upon my screen, noting names and dialogue and the like. Sailing Venus is, after all, my effort to write a YA novel in response to her original challenge above. After I failed miserably in my attempt to write it during NaNoWriMo, I left the story untouched as other demands consumed my time. But earlier this month I opened it back up and started re-reading the chapters I'd started. Making cuts here and there, adding a sequence to better develop a concept, replacing a serviceable word with a more focused one... essentially a second-draft pass. And then I reached the end and picked up where I left off. The words haven't come quickly (as I complained elsewhere, just once I'd like to go all Robert Silverberg on a project) but they are coming steadily, as opposed to the fits and starts from before. There's a precision in my language I'm not sure I've achieved before, packing in a lot of world-building in a limited amount of space. Implying rather than explaining, that sort of thing. I do think it is working. I'd already completed chapter 2 and was well into chapter 3 before going to Armadillocon over the weekend, which left me recharged and enthused to get back to writing, as it always does. So that's what I've been doing since, every night for a couple of hours, writing slowly but precisely, working out thorny little logistical problems in my plot I hadn't anticipated along with getting to know my characters better. It is, I must confess, progressing reasonably well.

"So when this is published, and there's a copy in my school library," she said, a slight bit more excited than it was cool to be, "you need to go in there and sign it. That's all, just your name." And then she bounded off, back to her world of texts and Tweets.

But you know what? I might just take her up on that.

Now Playing: The Moody Blues Time Traveller
Chicken Ranch Central

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