2012 Clarion Write-a-Thon Progress Posts

Following are the entries that I wrote and posted here at my personal blog and at the Team Hitchhiker team blog during the 2012 Clarion Write-a-Thon, displayed here in the interests of preservation and gathering everything together in one place.


Clarion Write-a-Thon: Sponsor Me!
Published on: Jun 9, 2012 @ 12:54

Clarion Write-a-ThonThis is a long entry, but please do read all the way to the end.

For long-time readers of this blog, and its previous incarnation at LiveJournal, you know how important an experience the Clarion Writers’ Workshop was for me. I attended in 2002, the 30th anniversary of the workshop being conducted on the campus of MSU at East Lansing, and it was a transformative experience. Having six weeks to do nothing but write, critique, read, and spend time with like-minded peers was a wonderful gift, and it unlocked something inside me that enabled me to begin seeing publication afterwards. Talk to almost any graduate of Clarion or Clarion West, and you’ll get a similar story.

And so, this year, exactly one decade after I attended Clarion, as a way for me to give something back, I will be participating in the Clarion Write-a-Thon (Facebook event). During the 2012 six-week session of the Clarion Writers’ Workshop at UCSD (June 24 to August 4), I will be following along with the 18 participants of the workshop during their frenetic life-changing experience in San Diego, and in solidarity doing a significant amount of writing myself.

My goal at the end of those six weeks is to write the final 30,000 words of my Tower novel (which I have been working on for six and half years at this point, and desperately want to finish), as well as raise some money for The Clarion Foundation (a wonderful non-profit organization that provides funding for the Workshop, and scholarships for the attendees). Broken down, that’s 5,000 words per week, which means that even if I solely write on weekdays, it’s only 1,000 words per day, which is totally doable.

I had planned to do this anyway, since other recent commitments have meant putting aside the Tower novel for a few months, but this structure will, I’m hoping, better enable me to complete my goal, especially if y’all are watching.

But I need your help.

In order to keep me motivated, I need people to sponsor me for the duration of the Write-a-Thon. You can pledge an amount that only gets donated if I complete my 30,000 word goal, or you can make a lump-sum donation on my behalf regardless of whether I get to 30K. Amounts start at $1 and go as high as you want. And because The Clarion Foundation is a nonprofit organization with 501(c)(3) charitable status, donations are tax deductible.

Remember, I don’t see a cent of the money that gets donated; however, if I get a minimum of $20 in donations, I have the option of joining a group of eight Write-a-Thon writers, and having that support structure in place so we can each root each other on. There are also prizes for the top earners, and although I’m less concerned about these than getting the writing done, snagging a Clarion paperweight and/or gift card would be some nice frosting on that cake.

There are a bunch of links on this entry, but here’s the important one ——–> my Write-a-Thon profile. Click there to check out my profile, keep updated on my progress, and make your tax-deductible sponsorship pledges.

Every little bit helps, and it is all appreciated, but here are some additional incentives that may help you to help me:

  • For every pledge of $10, your name will appear in the acknowledgments at the back of the book.
  • For every pledge of $20, you will also receive a DRM-free ebook trio (.epub, .mobi, and .pdf) of the finished Tower novel.
  • For every pledge of $40, you will also receive a DRM-free ebook trio of my short story “Complications of the Flesh,” which was just published in Bull Spec #7, and which shares the fictional setting of the Tower novel.
  • For every pledge of $50, you will also receive a DRM-free ebook trio of my rare 2001 holiday chapbook The Curragh of Kildaire, illustrated throughout by Jamie Bishop.
  • For every pledge of $75, you will also receive both a signed paperback copy and a DRM-free ebook trio of my 2011 collection Red Dot Irreal.
  • For every pledge of $100, you will also receive a signed paperback copy of the Tower novel once it is available.
  • For every pledge of $200, I will also name a character in one of the Tower novel’s final scenes (a prison breakout) after you or a person of your choice.
  • For every pledge of $500, I will also write a special one-of-a-kind story just for you which takes place in the fictional universe of the Tower novel, to be produced as an extremely limited edition signed chapbook of one copy.

If anyone is generous enough to pledge at amounts beyond that, I’ll come up with new tiers and rewards on the fly. 🙂

Thanks in advance!

N.B. My good friend Eugene Myers is participating in the Write-a-Thon for Clarion West; please consider sponsoring him as well.


Greetings and Introductions
Published on: Jun 25, 2012 @ 6:12

Rage Over Babylon by Ziv QualHi there! My name is Jason Erik Lundberg, and I’m the author of several books, most recently Red Dot Irreal (2011), as well as the founding editor of LONTAR: The Journal of Southeast Asian Speculative Fiction, editor of Fish Eats Lion (2012), and co-editor of A Field Guide to Surreal Botany (2008) and Scattered, Covered, Smothered (2005). My writing has appeared in over 50 publications in five countries. I’m a 2002 graduate of Clarion, and an active member in PEN American Center and SFWA.

My goal for the 2012 Clarion Write-a-Thon is to write the last 30,000 words of what I’ve been euphemistically calling “The Tower Novel” for the last six and a half years (which does have a title, but I’m still reticent about revealing it until the book is finished). Teaching secondary school full time for four of those years, as well as raising a toddler during that time, put a significant dent in my productivity, but the end is in sight. After a major re-write last year of the first 25,000 words, things started to really click and flow properly. My expected final word count is 120K.

If you’re curious what the book is about, here’s my elevator pitch: A Calvino-esque psychological novel about transnational characters using varied art forms to survive in a surveillance state. With explosions. And that’s all you’ll get from me right now. Call me superstitious, but if I talk about it anymore that that, I worry that it’ll deflate before I can complete it.

The way I see it, if I can write 1K words a day, five days a week, for six weeks, that equals 30K words, which is totally doable. As soon as I finish writing this entry, I’m going to activate Freedom and get down to writing today’s thousand words of fiction. You can follow along with my progress here at Team Hitchhiker and also on Facebook and Twitter.

You can also still support me during the Write-a-Thon via sponsorship at my profile page. As I understand it, the donation button will be active all throughout the six weeks of the Write-a-Thon, so you can sponsor me at any time, but why wait? Donations are tax-deductible, and they go toward an excellent cause, and if you donate at levels of $10 or above, you could receive some cool swag.

Thanks for following my progress during these six weeks, and thanks to Tim Susman for leading Team The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (may Douglas Adams live forever in our hearts).


Day 1: 983 words
Published on: Jun 25, 2012 @ 9:23

Project: The Tower novel (title withheld)
New words written: 983
Total Write-a-Thon words so far: 983
(Apologies to Cherie Priest for stealing her system of writing metrics)

A bit of a slow start for my first session, but that was to be expected. I’ve been away from the Tower novel for several months because of other writing obligations, so it took me some time to get back into the world of the story, and into the POV character’s head again.

Not a whole lot going on in those 983 words either, just some explanation for an event that happens earlier in the novel, and the extent of the planning that went into executing that event. I apologize for being vague, but it’s weird to even talk about it at all, seeing that 90,000 words of this book have already been written, words that no one besides me has seen. My extract below will also be similarly vague, as I don’t want to give away some important plot information.

That said, 983 words is mighty damn close to my set goal of 1K per day, so I can’t complain. (This of course does not count my previous blog entry here at Team Hitchhiker, or this one as well.) I’d like to do more than this if I can, because I know there are going to be sucky days where I only eke out 400 words, or days when I fall ill, or days when I might be on vacation, so it would be good to stockpile more than the average per day to balance out those days to come that are less productive.

Extract: “She sat down at a desk near the center of the room, the chair ergonomically curved to support her spine and encourage good posture. The room unnerved her with its utter absence of noise apart from the lights; an operations center such as this was designed for human habitation and use at all hours of the day, taken in shifts and host to all the shuffling, murmuring, buzzing, rustling sounds of people collectively concentrating on the work at hand. The lack of this background noise exuded a sense of emptiness of purpose, of abandonment, of wrongness. Even Val had disappeared that morning, likely to forage for food back outside on the mountain trail; she doubted the crane could digest the MREs she had found in the storeroom, but his absence just made her new subterranean domicile that much more silent and creepy.”


Day 2: 1,013 words
Published on: Jun 26, 2012 @ 15:57

Project: The Tower novel (title withheld)
New words written: 1,013
Total Write-a-Thon words so far: 1,996

Quite a late start today. Had a 2,300-word feature article to revise and submit on deadline, which took up much of my writing energy this afternoon. Some errands to do in town, so I didn’t even get going on that until about 2 p.m. By the time I got home, and showed my daughter the new books I’d bought her (Crazy Hair by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean, and a five-book box set of Dr Seuss hardcover Beginner Books, her favorite of which is Green Eggs and Ham), I was tired enough that I didn’t think I’d be able to get my novel words done today. But to my surprise, after she went to bed, I opened up Scrivener and was able to bash out over a thousand words to end the chapter. It helped that I’d ended the previous day on an exciting bit, so that I was able to slide back into it tonight.

Extract: “From her position on the carpeted ground, Tara stared at the soldier’s unmoving form, muscles bunched in preparation for a fight at the first sign of motion, but as she counted off the seconds in her head, he remained still, having knocked himself out cold. She exhaled a long breath, then emerged the rest of the way from the bin, and stood up to look at the man. He was Malay, and short in stature, but still quite physically fit for his age, which could have been anywhere from forty-five to sixty. The skin of his knuckles was ashy and cracked, and his hair was more grey than brown. She bent down to examine his injuries, but there was no blood that she could see, not even a mark on his head from where he had struck the desk. Placing her index and middle fingers on the inside of his wrist, she checked his pulse, and it beat strongly and steadily. Wrinkles marked the edges of his mouth and the corners of his eyes, but he wore his age well, like most of the Malays she knew. Tara was abruptly reminded of her father.”


Day 3: 1,184 words
Published on: Jun 27, 2012 @ 15:32

Project: The Tower novel (title withheld)
New words written: 1,184
Total Write-a-Thon words so far: 3,180

Another late start on the novel words again (I’m detecting a trend here). My afternoon was taken up with writing 1,800 words worth of answers to email interview questions for a Singaporean lifestyle website, and then re-revising the feature article I mentioned yesterday; the article, called “Windfall of the Unexpected,” was finished up and published at POSKOD.SG later in the day, and I’m quite happy with how it turned out.

So this evening, after making breakfast for dinner, I fired up Scrivener and re-entered the world of the novel. I got about 650 words done before my wife and daughter returned from visiting my in-laws, then got the squirt ready for bed, read to her from The Cat in the Hat and Green Eggs and Ham, and after she was asleep, turned the MacBook back on and banged out another 530 words before calling it a night.

I’m happy that I edged over my daily goal just a tad, but I really want to start aiming for higher than that. It’s looking certain that in coming days I’ll have less time than I would like to write, so I need to start stockpiling words now.

Extract: “The answer came in the figure of Val, which circled the chair slowly, its head bobbing as it stepped with what looked like undulations around the still form of the soldier. The crane struck out suddenly with its bill, stabbing at the soldier’s elbow in the funny-bone spot, not hard enough to break the skin, but enough possibly to leave a bruise. Tara repeated her questions, and at the same lack of response, Val did another circuit around the chair, and stabbed once again at the same spot. This time, the soldier’s top lip pulled upward in a grimace. A queasy feeling began in Tara’s stomach as she asked her questions for the third time, the sliminess of her complicity in his pain disgusting her as she watched as the soldier refused once again to answer and then to yelp as Val struck the same precise spot.”


Day 4: 716 words
Published on: Jun 28, 2012 @ 16:09

Project: The Tower novel (title withheld)
New words written: 716
Total Write-a-Thon words so far: 3,896

A horrible slog of a day. This afternoon, the words just would not come, every word choice the wrong one, the momentum from the previous day halted utterly; during a two-hour session, even with Freedom enabled, I managed maybe 150. Tonight after getting my daughter to bed, I pulled another 566 out of the air. Here’s hoping tomorrow is better, because it couldn’t be much worse.

Extract: “Some time later, after her tear ducts were squeezed dry, and her abdominals and obliques had been left sore from tense exertion, and the sobs had diminished enough so that all she could do was sigh, she pushed herself up into a sitting position and realized she still hadn’t eaten. Tara stood slowly, her entire body aching as if it had aged all thirty-seven of those lost years in the time it had taken her to cry, then stepped into the storeroom and liberated another burrito and packet of water. She chewed without tasting, hardly even noticing when she’d finished. Surrounded by cling-filmed military supplies, the like of which could sustain her for years to come, she made a decision.”


Day 5: 685 words
Published on: Jul 1, 2012 @ 14:04

Project: The Tower novel (title withheld)
New words written: 685
Total Write-a-Thon words so far: 4,581

Two days of not being able to write: Friday, taking care of daughter so wife could work on an illustration, and Saturday, took daughter to a kid’s birthday party (her first) for the daughter of a friend of mine. Today, taught a workshop in the afternoon, and upon returning home was slammed with flu symptoms (sore throat, sniffles, and fever so far). Still, I did manage to get 685 words done this morning. Feeling right shitty at the moment, and really hoping this doesn’t knock me out for a week.

Extract: “Three quick steps over to the lieutenant’s bound form, then she unsheathed one of the Bowies from the shoulder holster and cut through the duct tape pinning his right arm. The MRE landed with a thump as she tossed it onto his lap—Beef Teriyaki, she noted, with the small circular Halal symbol prominently displayed in the top right corner of the packaging—and he looked up at her, obviously confused by her new image of assertion combined with this act of generosity. ‘Eat,’ she said. ‘We have some walking to do and you will need the energy.'”


Day 6: 1,667 words
Published on: Jul 3, 2012 @ 9:36

Project: The Tower novel (title withheld)
New words written: 1,667
Total Write-a-Thon words so far: 6,248

Got in a good flow today. I was able to finally move into some more actiony scenes, and quickly got caught up in the narrative zone. Wrote up to one of the key moments in Part Six of the novel, a mini-climax, which I’ve had in my mind for a long time. I stopped right at that climactic moment so that hopefully tomorrow, it’ll enable to me an easy entry once again and I won’t have so much procrastination beforehand (which happened today; I’m constantly amazed at the number of ways I can find to waste time online).

I was worried about the flu laying me out like it usually does, but thankfully it seemed to be only a 24-hour thing. My focus was still a bit muzzy yesterday, hence the lack of words, but I’m back in the saddle today, and motivated to finish a strong week.

I’m also quite happy to note that I’m now just over 20% of the way toward my Write-a-Thon goal.

Extract: “The sudden movement snapped Tara’s attention back to the present, and she tore off after him, muttering curses under her breath, amazed at how fast he was moving. Her thighs and calves quickly settled into the rhythm of pursuit, muscle memory guiding her in how to place her feet and use the torque of her swinging arms to give her every little small addition of possible speed, compensating for the machete that she still held. The cool air dried out her mouth and sinuses quickly as she ran, producing a dull ache at the base of her skull. She gained, but not quickly enough, watching helplessly as he reached the building’s entrance and hurled himself inside.”


Day 7: 1,753 words
Published on: Jul 4, 2012 @ 9:42

Project: The Tower novel (title withheld)
New words written: 1,753
Total Write-a-Thon words so far: 8,001

Best day yet. The momentum from yesterday’s writing flowed into today’s, I was able to finish up a major chapter. I’m also happy to note that I’m now exactly back on track with my writing goals, if I had been writing 1,000 words a day during each weekday. I’m hoping to keep things going and continue to push the word count even higher. Maybe soon I’ll break 2,000 words in one session!

Extract: “Her test flights at first consisted of short trips to get used to the controls, and she found, to her surprise, that they had been intuitively designed (although a deep cylindrical impression in the control panel stymied her, as it appeared in none of the plans; perhaps it was an improvised cup holder). On only one occasion, she nearly tore the airship’s balloon by veering too close to the flagpole in the center of the training grounds. She gained confidence from each run, and quickly accumulated many hours in the air. After each day’s flight, she made sure to visit the graves and say a short prayer. Her strength and stamina increased with each night’s jog, and she did push-ups and crunches and squats to build up the rest of her muscles.”


Day 8: 1,409 words
Published on: Jul 5, 2012 @ 15:22

Project: The Tower novel (title withheld)
New words written: 1,409
Total Write-a-Thon words so far: 9,410

Not quite as many words as yesterday, but considering that I had much less writing time today (not even two hours), it was still pretty solid. I realized that the chapter I’d finished yesterday really needed to be split up into two and fleshed out a bit more, so that’s what today’s writing was all about, and both chapters are now better for it. Plus I got to use the word “phlogiston,” which is always fun.

Extract: “She took aim at the first discharger, and fired the airship’s cannon; the building bulged outward and then vaporized in a burst of green light that radiated quickly outward, causing the airship to shudder violently as the blast wave passed through it. The violent release of pent-up energy had momentarily knocked out the ship’s electricals, so that it hovered there and would not respond to Tara’s manipulation of the controls, but the self-repair systems had automatically engaged. After a half-hour nap in a bean bag chair, she awoke to find all functions normal once again. Amazed at the healing properties of the ship, but worried at the cumulative result of six more similar detonations, she took the Katzenjammer to the farthest limit of its targeting range before destroying the rest of the dischargers.”


Day 9: 946 words
Published on: Jul 7, 2012 @ 12:13

Project: The Tower novel (title withheld)
New words written: 946
Total Write-a-Thon words so far: 10,356

Just shy of a thousand words today, although I feel lucky I got any done at all. None yesterday because I was taking care of my daughter for pretty much the whole day (which, I have to say, I did not regret one bit), and it was difficult to get out of the house today as well. So today’s words were grabbed in fits and starts over four (or was it five?) different short sessions, which didn’t feel very satisfying, but at least they did get done, and pretty much made up for yesterday.

I’m quite chuffed to note that as of right now, I have passed the one-third mark on my Write-a-Thon goal (which means I’m still right on schedule). Additionally, to my great delight, I have also just passed the 100,000-word mark on the novel (101K, to be exact). I feel like I should celebrate, but I’ll leave that until I finish the book. Just 20,000 words left to go!

Extract: No extract today because the writing was almost all dialogue.


Day 10: 1,830 words
Published on: Jul 11, 2012 @ 10:31

Project: The Tower novel (title withheld)
New words written: 1,830
Total Write-a-Thon words so far: 12,186

Three truly shitty days between my last update and today, bad enough that I seriously contemplated going to the doctor for anti-depressants. Instead, I somehow muddled through, spending as much time as I could with my daughter for giggle therapy. I’m not going to go into specifics, but my motivation to write for those three days was severely damaged, and I was left pretty emotionally raw.

I managed to emerge from the doldrums enough today to venture out of the house with my MacBook, finding refuge at Pacific Coffee Company at the Red Dot Design Museum, which has the advantages of: never being too crowded, hosting some incredibly comfortable leather chairs, featuring free wifi and open receptacles to plug in my laptop (so I don’t have to worry about the time limit imposed by the capacity of my Macbook’s battery), and serving tasty espresso drinks. I’ve done writing there before with mixed results; sometimes I’m so damn comfortable that all I can do is stare out the window and daydream (which is also an important part of the writing process).

Thankfully, today I did more than just stare and dream; it was, in fact, my most productive day yet. Still haven’t managed to crack 2K, but I’m so close I can taste it. However, because of the aforementioned shitty days, I’m now 814 words behind my Write-a-Thon daily goals (I should be up to Day 13 and 13K words by this point). Hopefully, if I can have as good a day tomorrow as I did today, I’ll be caught up again quickly.

Oh, and I can’t believe I’ve been so stupid, but I haven’t been including the link to my Write-a-Thon profile in my previous entries here at Team Hitchhiker. We’re now in the middle of Week 3, which I remember at Clarion 2002 was a particularly difficult week; interesting how that pattern has echoed ten years later. Anyway, I’ve still got over three weeks to go, so do please sponsor my efforts, especially if you’ve been getting anything out of my updates here.

SPONSOR THIS WRITER

Extract: “Zuma crossed his arms, and Tara wondered what he was thinking. His own recitation had left out a lot of facts, events and actions he still felt necessary to hold close to the chest, even from her. What exactly had he done during his own eight months separated from her? Was he still even the same person, apart from the physical differences? Was she? Already, even so soon after their reunion, she felt a gulf separating them once again, an unalterable emotional chasm that she wanted to deny, but didn’t know if she could.”


Almost Halfway Through the Write-a-Thon
Published on: Jul 11, 2012 @ 22:46

Things have been quiet here at the blog, as expected, while I pound away at the last section of the Tower novel for the Clarion Write-a-Thon. I’m happy to say that I’m more or less on schedule, having written 12K+ words since I started on 25 June. I’ve run just a smidge behind because of illness and some quite sucky personal issues that I won’t go into here, but I should be able to catch up easily enough to reach my 30K goal by 4 August.

I mentioned in my last entry that I’d be posting weekly round-ups of my entries at Team Hitchhiker, and I have neglected to do that, bad bad writer. In each entry, I post my progress, a short write-up about what went well or poorly during the writing session, and a short extract of the written work as proof that I wasn’t only playing Diamond Dash during my writing time.

I should reiterate that even though the Write-a-Thon is more than a third over, The Clarion Foundation is still taking sponsorship donations, and will be until the end of the ‘thon. So if you’d still like to sponsor me (and each new sponsor gives me further incentive to achieve my writing goals), you can do so at my Write-a-Thon profile; even if it’s just a few bucks, it helps, believe me.


Day 11: 549 words
Published on: Jul 13, 2012 @ 15:41

Project: The Tower novel (title withheld)
New words written: 549
Total Write-a-Thon words so far: 12,735

The real world intruded for a couple of days, which meant very little writing. One of our aircon units broke down, leading to a lack of sleep during the nights because of its intermittent beeping, and waiting for the contractor to come take a look during the day put me right out of the creative mood.

Those 549 words that came tonight did so most grudgingly, and I fought hard for each and every one. Here’s hoping things go smoother in the coming days.

N.B. Something I forgot to mention when I posted this last night is that I did get one very important thing accomplished, which was to plot out (at least very roughly) the last seven chapters in the book. Up to this point, I had a vague idea where I was going, and it meant a lot of staring and thinking during the actual writing time. Now that I at least have the plot bones for each chapter, I can spend less time thinking about what will happen and just write the rest.

SPONSOR THIS WRITER

Extract: “On the first day of his solitary incarceration, he had wept long and loud, for his capture, for his mistreatment, for his separation from Kelvin only days after they had been reunited. He’d called his lover’s name repeatedly, hoping that he could hear Vahid’s wails down the row and know that he was at least still alive, but after a few minutes, the metal door was yanked open, and then he was dragged into the center of the courtyard and beaten by several guards with truncheons, their blows landing heavily on his kidneys and back. Later, when he’d been able to drag himself to a cramped standing position within the cell and attempt to urinate in the bucket that served as the cell’s toilet, the thin stream was pink with blood. He didn’t call Kelvin’s name after that.”


Day 12: 2,281 words
Published on: Jul 14, 2012 @ 9:07

Project: The Tower novel (title withheld)
New words written: 2,281
Total Write-a-Thon words so far: 15,016

W00t! I broke 2K today! I’m also quite happy to note that I’m totally back on track with my daily goals. Whew.

Taking the time yesterday to plot out the remaining chapters of the book really did help me today. I knew where I was heading, which freed me up to just write the scene. I was able to close out one chapter and get 600 words into the next. It also helped that the aircon problems I’ve been experiencing got resolved today with the installation of a new unit; sucks that we had to replace the whole thing, but sadly the old the PC board was shot, and it would have cost nearly as much to replace it as just get a whole new unit with a new warranty. So, that problem fixed, I could once again get out of the house and focus on the novel; the change of location absolutely helped.

The third helpful thing was a tool in Scrivener recently pointed out by Charles Stross: the Show Project Targets window. This enabled me to set both a goal for the book and for my daily writing sessions, and to keep track of the new words written during just today’s session (I’d had to go back and to more of a manual count before). I found that leaving the window up all the time was distracting, but occasionally checking it motivated me to keep going, especially as I neared 2K.

I’ve now reached the halfway point, both in the Write-a-Thon and in my writing goals. Three more weeks and 15,000 more words to go until I can type THE END.

SPONSOR THIS WRITER

Extract: “For his own final exam, Vahid staged a one-man production of the Persian folktale of the Forty Fortunes (at his mother’s suggestion), and his fellow students, his professors, and his parents sat with mouths agape as he single-handedly manipulated Ahmed the Diviner, his wife Jamell, the Shah of Persia, and all of the forty thieves who had stolen the forty chests of gold and jewels from the royal treasury. Eschewing marionette strings altogether all the way from the design stage, he succeeded in pouring emotions into the wooden drowa, and making the audience feel the complex relationship between Ahmed and Janell, and Ahmed’s terror at imprisonment by the Shah if the forty thieves were not found. After the performance, he had enough letters of recommendation to ensure that he’d never want for work again.”


Day 13: 1,587 words
Published on: Jul 16, 2012 @ 10:35

Project: The Tower novel (title withheld)
New words written: 1,587
Total Write-a-Thon words so far: 16,603

Got a bit of a late start today. Several hours were spent responding to the results of my email call for write-a-thon sponsorship last night, which was happy work indeed. Prior to the start of the ‘thon, I’d announced my participation on Facebook and Twitter, and received a handful of donations (thanks again!), but then yesterday, after reading the Week Four update email from The Clarion Foundation, I realized that there were probably a lot of people out there who might be willing to support me, but who might not follow my social network profiles. Drafting the email took quite a bit of time to craft, but the results so far have been very encouraging.

(And if you see that I’ve raised $750,000 in pledges on my write-a-thon profile, that’s actually a goof, and it’ll be fixed in a few hours. I’m good, but I’m not that good.)

As for today’s writing session, once I finally started, it went pretty well. Today was the prison breakout scene, with lots of action and explosions, so it was quite fun to write. The chapter isn’t quite done yet, and I made sure to end on a character having to make a gut-wrenching decision of conscience, so I should be able to wrap the chapter up tomorrow.

>>>SPONSOR THIS WRITER<<<

Extract: “They had almost reached the ramp when a booming barking sound echoed off of every available surface, a sound that reached into Vahid’s lizard brain and nearly succeeded in making him piss himself in fear, a sound he recognized even as he skidded to a stop and turned his head: the guard supervisor Blunt had awakened, recovered, and was now giving chase with frightening speed, his canine characteristics very evidently not only cosmetic. And he was making a bee-line directly for Vahid.”


Day 14: 1,026 words
Published on: Jul 17, 2012 @ 14:15

Project: The Tower novel (title withheld)
New words written: 1,026
Total Write-a-Thon words so far: 17,629

Had a fairly trudgy day today. I made my daily word goal, but just barely, and the words seemed all wrong, and dead on the page. But hey, that’s what revision is for.

One problem was the venue. I had some errands to do, including finding a new beard trimmer (which are much harder to find in Singapore than in the US), and I figured that since the mall I went to had a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, I’d just take my MacBook there and work. However, it was one of those semi-open shops, and the mall traffic was distracting, and the Gramophone nearby was playing a repeating loop from the latest Mission: Impossible movie, and the chair was uncomfortable, and and and. Excuses all, but it made concentration difficult, and I never really got into the flow. (Suffice it to say, I won’t be going back there to write.)

So: a “meh” day. I remain optimistic that tomorrow’s will be better.

>>>SPONSOR THIS WRITER<<<

Extract: “Vahid gripped the control console as they plummeted downward, acutely aware of the lack of restraining belts or even chairs. If Tara was planning to crash the airship into the guard towers, he’d likely go smashing right through the windscreen. He reached for Kelvin’s hand and gripped it tight, his heart lodged squarely in his throat. The ground loomed large, and then, just as Vahid was certain that Tara had temporarily lost her senses and was just going to plow them all into the uprushing earth, she braked hard and pulled up on the controls, bringing the airship within meters of the fleeing prisoners, and putting the airship between them and the firing guards.”


Day 15: 505 words
Published on: Jul 18, 2012 @ 12:14

Project: The Tower novel (title withheld)
New words written: 505
Total Write-a-Thon words so far: 18,134

SUCK SUCK SUCK. That pretty much sums up today’s session.

I thought I’d be able to do a decent day; I got lots of little things accomplished around the house this morning, then went back to Red Dot, where I’d previously had such a great session. I was there for almost three hours, and my mind just kept drifting. Concentration was hard to come by, just like now, as I write this, when my eyes keep unfocusing and I stare at my wife’s lily plant for five minutes. I blame my upstairs neighbor, who was hammering what sounded like sheet metal last night at 2 a.m., and totally wrecked the rest of my sleep.

Going to bed early tonight. Maybe I just need to take the day off tomorrow. I feel like I’m trying to wring out the last microscopic drops in a dry sponge. My only consolation is that I’m still on target, but I can’t afford to have many more days like this.

>>>SPONSOR THIS WRITER<<<

Extract: I’ll spare you an extract today, as the words sucked harder than the suckiest suck.


Day 16: 2,113 words
Published on: Jul 20, 2012 @ 9:15

Project: The Tower novel (title withheld)
New words written: 2,113
Total Write-a-Thon words so far: 20,247

Well. Today certainly didn’t suck.

I took yesterday off, to recharge the ol’ brain sponge and get to some other matters that have nothing to do with the Tower novel, as well as attend the book launch of The Billion Shop (the new short fiction chapbook by my friend Stephanie Ye, who is an amazing writer), and it seems that the break did me a world of good. The writing came quite easily at The Coffee Bean and Teaf Leaf today, despite the distractions of 1) a trio of middle-aged Brazilian tourists whose iPad I was sadly unable to connect with the café’s wifi, and 2) the near-constant flow of attractive young women in tight dresses who likely worked in the nearby office building.

So today was another double-landmark day: I once again surpassed 2K words in one session, and I also reached 20K overall in the Write-a-Thon. Despite not writing yesterday, I’m still right on track, and it’s heartening that I’m now two-thirds of the way to my goals!

>>>SPONSOR THIS WRITER<<<

Extract: “The escape passage did not proceed in a straight line, but curved and banked at odd intervals where, Vahid supposed, the excavators had been unable to proceed through the bedrock. His heartbeat thundered in his ears at the thought of utter helplessness that accompanied capture, the utter submission to power and authority, a sensation that, it appeared, he was going to have to relive in short order. The stuffy air of the tunnel sloshed in his lungs. He wiped the sweat from his palms on the pants of his prison jumpsuit, and stared at the movements of his lover just in front, burning them into his mind in case they became separated again.”


Two Dollars!
Published on: Jul 21, 2012 @ 3:02

Two dollars!

After reading today’s latest Clarion Write-a-Thon email bulletin, I realized that I’m currently the runner-up for Top Earner, and I’m only behind the leader by two dollars!

(Which, of course, made me think of Johnny the paperboy from the 80s absurdist comedy Better Off Dead, one of the touchstones of my childhood.)

According to the prize page, the top earner receives a $100 gift card (iTunes, Amazon or B&N: writer’s choice) plus a commemorative 2012 Clarion Write-a-Thon plaque. I need just a bit more help to push me up into first place and within shouting distance of that plaque. And remember that any donation starting with $10 will get you some very cool swag from me.

Surely, someone out there has at least two dollars to spare?

>>>SPONSOR THIS WRITER<<<


Day 17: 1,682 words
Published on: Jul 23, 2012 @ 10:06

Project: The Tower novel (title withheld)
New words written: 1,682
Total Write-a-Thon words so far: 21,929

Today’s session started off quite slow, with lots of daydreaming and thinking about the end of the novel, and it wasn’t until I came back home that I stopped worrying about it being only a 600-word day and cranked out a bunch more. I’m coming up on one of the big climaxes of the book, where twists are revealed and the truth is uncovered, and one final balls-out action scene is enacted. So SO close to the end now!

It’s interesting that even so close to the end of the book, characters are acting in ways other than the ones I planned for them, but better ways, more satisfying ways, ways that are making the book stronger than originally thought, ways that will resonate. My subconscious really is smarter than me sometimes.

>>>SPONSOR THIS WRITER<<<

Extract: “With some effort and a lot of cursing, Vahid managed to roll himself onto his knees, his forehead planted on the floor for balance. Slowly, he raised his head until it was perpendicular to the floor, and then spaced his knees as far apart as could be allowed by the zipcuffs around his ankles. No reaction from another soul in the room, but perhaps he was just watching Vahid, waiting for him to do something stupid like try to free himself before charging over and delivering a swift kick to the kidneys. Vahid found he didn’t care. Planting himself with as much balance as he could, he shook his head violently from side to side, a grotesque parody of a dog shaking itself dry, back and forth with increasing force until the cloth hood dislodged and rode up and up and over his head and fell to the floor with a soft crumple.”


Day 18: 1,581 words
Published on: Jul 25, 2012 @ 12:27

Project: The Tower novel (title withheld)
New words written: 1,581
Total Write-a-Thon words so far: 23,510

My two-year-old daughter caught the flu, and so the past couple of days have been pretty rough, both for her and for her parents. Last night’s sleep was interrupted by coughing and fever, and so this morning was an extended display in obstinacy and stubbornness. My wife had a tour to give as well, so it was just me and the squirt; my own lack of sleep (interruptions plus some insomnia) meant lack of cognitive function, and I was despairing that I’d have to miss my writing target for another day.

To my incredible surprise, while Anya was napping this afternoon (some in her bedroom, some on my lap, and some draped across my arms on the couch), I was able to work on the novel, and actually had quite a productive writing session. I finished the chapter leading up to the final climax, which should entail colossal amounts of balls-out destruction in lots of cool ways, and introduced some pretty big surprises.

>>>SPONSOR THIS WRITER<<<

Extract: “Vahid was almost certain that he could hear the terrible rending sound of his heart being ripped out of his chest. His skin was suddenly too warm, and he was painfully aware of the sensitivity of his teeth. Dark smudges sprang to life in front of his eyes, swimming in amoebic globular patterns. The light in the room pulsated from dimness to brightness and back again. The top of his head felt filled with helium; perhaps Tara could just strap the cabin of the Katzenjammer to his noodle and then pilot him around the skies.”


Day 19: 1,490 words
Published on: Jul 27, 2012 @ 14:02

Project: The Tower novel (title withheld)
New words written: 1,490
Total Write-a-Thon words so far: 25,000

Keeping this short. I was unable to get any writing done yesterday. Today I hunkered down at studioKALEIDO for 3.5 hours, and got it done. It was slow and painful, but it got done.

You may notice that now, at the end of five weeks, I am exactly at my target goal for this point in the Write-a-Thon, down to the word. I hadn’t planned to do this, and was seriously hitting the wall at 1200 words, but kept pushing until I could get the exact number for a total of 25K. I’m positive I won’t be writing this weekend, so when I start again on Monday, I’ll be ready to tackle the last 5K.

Holy crap. I’m only 5K to the end of my book!

>>>SPONSOR THIS WRITER<<<

Extract: “The impact blew away two of the legs on the ersatz arthropod’s right side, and Vahid’s own arms flared with sympathetic pain. He absorbed the concrete, steel, and glass from the exterior of the Tower to reform the missing legs, then fired forth a bolt of manmade webbing from the spider’s underside that struck the airship’s balloon before it could recharge its cannon; the material tore easily through the canvas, and the dirigible wobbled and swung as it lost altitude and then plunged to the street below.”


Day 20: 1,300 words
Published on: Jul 30, 2012 @ 10:16

Project: The Tower novel (title withheld)
New words written: 1,300
Total Write-a-Thon words so far: 26,300

A decent writing session today. I’m discovering here at the end that it’s taking me a lot longer than normal to get my words done (3.5 hours as opposed to, previously, only two), and I think that in part it’s a certain reluctance to actually finish, to wrap up this narrative that’s occupied my brain since 2005, to finally say goodbye to these amazing characters.

My background music today was Hans Zimmer’s soundtrack for The Dark Knight Rises, which expresses all the grandeur and tragedy that I’m trying to convey in these final chapters. And I’m reminded of something that Christopher Nolan said about the film, that a great story deserves a great ending. It’s something I’m keeping in mind very much right now, although more prosaically I just keep telling myself not to fuck it all up.

One way or another, this week I will finish my novel. I know that I can fix things in revision, but I’m still hoping against hope that I have the ability and the courage to give this book the ending it deserves.

>>>SPONSOR THIS WRITER<<<

Extract: “From far below, anti-aircraft tanks had gathered at nearby Borstal Square and begun to fire their payloads upwards, but Vahid laughed as he snatched the shells out of the air and then hurled them back down to the sound of distant explosions. More military airships had arrived as reinforcements, but Vahid, now thoroughly in the flow of battle, leapt and charged and fired and absorbed and took care of these vessels as well. Fighter jets screamed overhead, launching their missiles and letting loose their machine guns, and Vahid either deflected their impact or absorbed the kinetic energy from the would-be collisions.”


Last Week of the Write-a-Thon!
Published on: Jul 30, 2012 @ 19:59

Okay, I let things get slack here again, but I’m happy to say that I’ve been incredibly productive during these last few weeks of the Clarion Write-a-Thon. As of the end of Week Five, I’m still on target (in point of fact, exactly on target, down to the word). A few things that I’ve discovered in the last three weeks:

  • I don’t seem to be able to write every single day. And when I push myself to do so, my productivity plummets. So I took the tactic of trying to write at least three or four times a week, and that seems to have kept me on track.
  • If I have a particularly good writing session (ergo, over 2K words), I can’t necessarily reproduce that experience by going back to the same location and siting in the same chair, ordering the same drink, etc. There were some days that I hardly did more than daydream.
  • Life will get in the way. Family problems will crop up, small children will get sick, you will get sick, a crisis will have to be dealt with right now. It happens. Rather than beat myself up over the writing time I was missing, I tried to stay more in the moment, and console myself by making up the wordage in later days.
  • Taking weekends off is essential. Seriously. Time to rest and play with my daughter.
  • Writing to a regular schedule is actually not that hard. Being accountable to people (like my donors) was a fantastic motivation to stay on this schedule.

I’m now heading into the final week of the Write-a-Thon. I only have two more shortish chapters to finish and then the Tower novel will be done, and I can type THE END. It’s both exhilarating and terrifying.

I’ve already posted my entry for today, but I want to reiterate something. My background music this afternoon was Hans Zimmer’s soundtrack for The Dark Knight Rises, which expresses all the grandeur and tragedy that I’m trying to convey in these final chapters. And I’m reminded of something that Christopher Nolan said about the film, that a great story deserves a great ending. It’s something I’m keeping in mind very much right now, although more prosaically I just keep telling myself not to fuck it all up.

One way or another, this week I will finish my novel. I know that I can fix things in revision, but I’m still hoping against hope that I have the ability and the courage to give this book the ending it deserves.

As I mentioned above, this is the final week of the Write-a-Thon, so if you’ve been considering sponsoring me or one of the other participants, now is the time to do so. If all of the pledges come through, we still need to raise an additional $2K; if none of the pledges comes through, we still need to raise $6K (although the real number will probably be somewhere in the middle). I’ve been very lucky so far to see wonderful generosity from friends, family, and acquaintances, but if you want to add your name to that list, and share in the final exciting moments of me finishing my book, you can do so at my Write-a-Thon profile. Please don’t put it off.


Day 21: 1,834 words
Published on: Aug 1, 2012 @ 8:58

Project: The Tower novel (title withheld)
New words written: 1,834
Total Write-a-Thon words so far: 28,134

The last two chapters of the Tower novel are dénouement, and the first part of it written today was largely a dream sequence. I’m not sure how advisable it is to have one so close to the end of the book, but I think it’s necessary. It turned out more interesting than I’d originally thought, and was a keen way to skip over some mundane details.

I’m now less than 2,000 words from my Write-a-Thon goal, so it’s looking very good that the money that was pledged on my behalf will be unlocked and donated to the cause. Which of course makes me very happy. Now all I have to do in the next few days is make it happen.

>>>SPONSOR THIS WRITER<<<

Extract: “Vahid turned and proceeded up the stairs. The dim lighting made it difficult to see what awaited him at the top, and his stomach trembled in anxiety. But what the hell the did he have to be nervous about? This was only a dream, right? With each step, the barely audible buzzing that had been there all along increased in volume, resolving into a low brassy tone that resonated down to his bones. At the top of the staircase, he practically vibrated in consonance with the sound, stepping carefully down the narrow corridor that stretched before him, his shoes making no sound on the carpeted tongue that ran its entire length.”


Day 22: 1,032 words
Published on: Aug 2, 2012 @ 7:38

Project: The Tower novel (title withheld)
New words written: 1,032
Total Write-a-Thon words so far: 29,166

Finished the penultimate chapter, and started the very final one. I really debated writing what I did today, as it turns the novel into even more of a tragedy than I had originally intended, but in the end, I had to do what was right for the story. Decisions, especially destructive ones, must come with a cost. My own writing came very very close to making me cry today.

I’m now only 834 words from my Write-a-Thon goal, and I was strongly tempted to just bash through and complete them today, but I have some other writing-related matters that I must attend to today (such as finishing the preface for the anthology I edited of new Singaporean speculative fiction, Fish Eats Lion) that just can’t wait. Plus, I estimate that I’ve got closer to 1,500 words to go before the book is actually finished, so I’ll plan to knock those out tomorrow.

SO CLOSE NOW!

>>>SPONSOR THIS WRITER<<<

Extract: “When next Vahid woke, his eyes gluey and his vision slow to converge, his back and ribs and arms and leg a faraway ache that he vaguely attributed to narcotic numbing, the first sight he expected to encounter was Toph in his cat form, but instead, leaning over him with a mixture of concern and relief was Tara’s familiar face, her skin aglow as if she had just washed it. She beamed at him and said, ‘Well, hey, look who’s awake.'”


Day 23: 1,605 words
Published on: Aug 3, 2012 @ 10:06

Project: A Fickle and Restless Weapon (title revealed!)
New words written: 1,605
Total Write-a-Thon words: 30,771

After a marathon session today (nearly four hours), I completed the final chapter of the Tower novel– you know what? Fuck it. I’m finally going to call it by its proper title.

I completed the final chapter of A Fickle and Restless Weapon, and typed THE END, simultaneously meeting my Write-a-Thon goal (with 771 words to spare).

I still can’t get over it. I FINISHED WRITING MY NOVEL.

It still needs some work, especially the second half of the book, and I’ll probably do at least one more general revision of the whole thing, but it’s out of my head, it’s set in electrons, and it’s done.

Plus, now The Clarion Foundation will get all of the money that was pledged on my behalf, in addition to the outright donations, which comes to a total of $1,213.00. I can’t thank all of my generous donors enough, and I’ll be getting the promised goodies out to you all as soon as I can.

I should probably note that there’s still one day left to donate, so even though I’ve made my goal, you can still sponsor me, and know that the money will go to a worthy cause.

I’m going to take a nap now.

>>>SPONSOR THIS WRITER<<<

Extract: “They were stopped three times by automated security tollbooths, but the barcodes on their entry paperwork, forged by an acquaintance of the captain of the ship towards which they progressed, passed enough muster that they were allowed through each time with only a minimum of delay. Vahid was astonished that even a negligible MinStab presence was not established here, that they had entrusted the security of one of the busiest ports in the world to a system of fallible servers and subroutines, that the government’s obsessive suspicions had just an obvious blind spot. And at this thought, Vahid’s own paranoia surged to the surface. It was just too easy. That had to be driving directly into a trap.”


Clarion Write-a-Thon Post Mortem
Published on: Aug 13, 2012 @ 23:36

The Clarion Write-a-Thon ended a week ago, and I meant to post a post mortem (heh) during that time, but my brain was frankly pooped after the six-week endurance run to finish the Tower novel. That meant hardly doing anything productive last week because, well, I just wasn’t physically or mentally capable of doing so. But now I’ve had a bit of a rest, so here you go.

For Week 6, I wanted to continue the trend of writing every other day rather than every day, but I knew that I’d need a fourth day in there to finish with the word count that I needed to put me at or over my overall goal of 30K. I wrote on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and then Friday; the Thursday numbers were low (to be expected, plus I didn’t want to stress myself too much), but I brought everything home during a marathon run on Friday while writing at studioKALEIDO (many thanks to Amanda and Winnie for giving me the space) and got to type THE END.

And then I took a long and freakishly satisfying shit. I mention this not as prurient scatology, but as a comment on the physical reaction that came with finally completing a work of 120,000 words, a work that had taken me six and a half years to finish. My body was able to literally unclench with the relief of wrapping up such a momentous event. I knew that I’d need to fix some things in revision, and I wasn’t satisfied with the ending I’d written, but it was there, out of my head and on the page.

On Saturday, to my surprise, I opened the very last chapter once again, and within 20 minutes or so, tweaked it enough so that what I’d earlier thought unsatisfying became a supremely meaningful and resonant ending, so much better than what I’d initially written the day before. But to tell the truth, I couldn’t have revised those resonant words without what I’d typed in my exhaustion the day before. Which is why the most important piece of writing advice I have ever learned is to FINISH WHAT YOU START.

So my final Write-a-Thon total is 30,834 words in six weeks. I accomplished my dual goals for the ‘thon and for finishing the book. I now have a completed novel that, in the coming months, I will go over at least twice more before sending out to agents. I’m damn proud of what I’ve done with it, and I’ll be even prouder once all the little niggling loose ends have been tied up.

But even better, all of the money that was donated or pledged in my name will now go to The Clarion Foundation, which comes to a total of $1,213.00. I’ll be sending out an email soon to all of the generous people who sponsored me, and will be getting their prizes ready.

This was an incredible experience and I learned a lot about myself in the process. I wouldn’t have been able to do it if I was working full-time right now, so I’m astonished at my fellow participants who also wrote toward their goals while holding down a day job. It’s been a long journey to get here, but the biggest thing I’ve taken away is that I can actually finish a novel. I’ve started many, but A Fickle and Restless Weapon (the book’s actual title) is the first one I’ve fully committed to finishing. It makes the prospect of writing my next novel a less daunting task, which is an important thing if I’m to have a lasting career.

Thank you to everyone for cheering me on. The book is finished, and I’m still basking in the glow of that accomplishment.

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