duskpeterson: (autumn acorn)
[personal profile] duskpeterson
"So today I did 1.5 hours on workshops, 3 hours plus on layout of a magazine, finished some laundry and did dishes, had a half hour nap, watched 2.5 hours of television, did about an hour on e-mail and business, and still got just under 5,000 words of fiction written plus this blog."

--Dean Wesley Smith.

"It was my practice to be at my table [to write] every morning at 5.30 A.M.; and it was also my practice to allow myself no mercy. An old groom, whose business it was to call me, and to whom I paid £5 a year extra for the duty, allowed himself no mercy. During all those years at Waltham Cross he was never once late with the coffee which it was his duty to bring me. . . . I owe more to him than to any one else for the success I have had."

--Anthony Trollope.


I had a really bad day a few weeks ago, and in an instinctive move to heal myself, I found myself drifting toward the shelves at the public library that held books about fiction-writing.

That made up my mind. I'd been telling myself that I didn't have time right now to write fiction, what with all my publishing and decluttering and other activities that were aimed at improving my financial situation. I'd have to start writing fiction again, of course, but not till I got these more urgent activities out of the way.

But did I really not have the time? Because every time I was online (which is to say, ever day), I spent at least an hour surfing Google News for articles. I'd been telling myself over and over to stop this - it's a compulsive activity, derived from my Internet addiction - yet I continued to do this. I still don't have much self-discipline when I'm online.

I only need to be on the Internet two days a week in order to publish, do various web tasks related to publishing and daily life, tackle e-mail, and occasionally dowload e-texts and download or stream music and videos. None of that takes much time, now that I've managed to break myself from the habit of surfing the entire World Wide Web for no reason other than to feed my Internet addiction. (It took me fifteen years of a very hard struggle to break that habit. It was a major triumph when I did.) So why was I still online seven days a week?

Clearly, not writing fiction (I'd written less than four thousand words since the end of January) was putting me emotionally off-keel. Okay. Time to put Plan B into action.

1) Stay off the Internet, except for the two days a week I really need to be on.

2) Read fiction when I'm offline. Read only fiction. My Muse won't produce fiction unless I'm reading only fiction.

3) Instead of spending an hour a day surfing idly, spend an hour a day writing, at least six days a week. I'd do this right after I woke up (my gradual waking-up time could be spent plotting), because that's when my Muse is at his best. Since I write stories at the rate of roughly 30 words per minute, one hour of writing a day for six days a week adds up to about ten thousand words a week. Even if I don't keep to this schedule each and every week (I certainly wasn't able to do this month, because of all the online marketing I had to do), that still adds up to a heck of a lot of wordage by the end of the year.

So I put the plan into action, and darn, there goes my excuse for not writing fiction. I'd honestly thought, for the past few years, that I had writers' block for the first time in my life, brought on by midlife changes.

Nothing of the sort. It's as I said here a few weeks ago: I'm not writing fiction because I'm not reading fiction. And I'm not reading fiction because I'm reading nonfiction online all the time.

When I'm offline and reading fiction . . . Nine days offline. Twenty-one thousand words of fiction-writing.

(I also managed to get ten thousand words written during four days that I was working online. That shows what a difference the fiction-reading is making.)

By the way, the nicest thing about this plan? It doesn't interfere with the rest of my daily schedule. It used to be that, on the days when I wrote fiction, my day was shot for any other activities. I'd do nothing except plot fiction, write fiction, edit fiction, and read fiction while eating. But this way, only a small portion of my day is spent plotting and writing and editing fiction; the rest of my day is given over to other activities. (I still read fiction while eating, though.)

Writing fiction is fun. So is being offline and finding my life freed up to do all the stuff that I need to do offline. I just need to remember that when I go online, so that I'll get myself offline as quickly as possible.


A bit of nonfiction from me: FishieMishie kindly uploaded to Fanlore a timeline of Boys in Chains that I wrote. Boys in Chains is a fan fiction archive devoted to powerfic.

One of the things I love about the Internet is being able to eavesdrop on what people are saying about my stories. Like this post with major spoilers for Debt Price (which I commented on, simply became I'm a member of that comm) and this lively discussion (which I wouldn't have dared insert myself into). My favorite quote from that thread (which is about the half-a-million-word-long Eternal Dungeon omnibus): "I have had sex with not nearly enough [guys] to be able to commit that kind of time to something that will make me crazy."

Now there's a reader with his priorities in the right place.

Also, I received this snippet from a college-aged reader (who gave me permission to quote this): "I heard this girl talking about your Twenty Thousand Gold Stars novel at school! I was too shy to approach her, but it made me smile."


(Noakes was staying in Baltimore during this period.)

August 24:

Got another 2800 words of fic written, yay. Also, I cleaned the small fridge and created another series cover. [Our cat] Honor is happy because she gets to be in my bedroom while you're gone (at least, while I'm awake). I took Mama Cat downstairs. One of these days she's going to figure out that me picking her up is bad news and swipe me again.

Nothing much else to say at this point; I've only been up since 10 PM. Still on my agenda for today: research the next portion of my story (fortunately, that's offline research), edit Fan Fiction Fan, clean the floors, go to the farmers' market, and talk to our housemates. It'll be a long day for me.

August 25:

I keep taking "naps" after lunch (which is at dawn for me) that end up being six hours long. This time I woke up just in time to reach the farmers' market before it closed. But of course I didn't get any editing done of Fan Fiction Fan, and I didn't clean the floors.

After talking to our housemates, I was wired up, so I decided, what the heck, I'll do the research for my story, "Rain." Unfortunately, it turned out I couldn't do it offline. So I headed online.

What I needed was (1) a train bridge in existence in 1887 (2) over the Patapsco River (3) that was at the border between the 8th and 9th landsteads (i.e. Anne Arundel County and Baltimore City).

I ended up having to go a few miles west into Howard Seat in Mip (i.e. Howard County), but I found the bridge I needed, and man, is it a doozy.


All those lovely Roman arches, which, in the Toughs universe, really will have been created by Romans, or at least by their New World immigrants. (I once visited an exceedingly tall Roman aqueduct in Provence, by the way: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pont_du_Gard . My companion trekked across it; I declined.)

You can see Thomas Viaduct here, in the northwest corner of this 1891 map, between Elkridge Landing and Relay.


It turned out - hurrah! - that the bridge once carried a famous luxury train line, the Royal Blue, which was exactly what I needed for my story. (I had to fudge the actual chronology of when the line started, but only by three years, which isn't bad.) So what I needed at that point was (1) historic photos showing the bridge and landscape, (2) historic photos showing the interior of a Royal Blue passenger car, and (3) a floor-plan of a Royal Blue car.

I didn't hold out much hope for the latter. It's hard enough to find nineteenth-century interior photos of trains, much less plans. But lo and behold, I found, not one plan, but two. One was part of an 1892 reprinted article at a train fan's site. (Love those train fans. They make my research so much easier.) The other turned up at Google Books, once I figured out the correct keywords to search on.

Took me four-and-a-half hours to do the research, but now I can write the scene. I also ordered two history books through Marina, one on the viaduct, one on the Royal Blue, but I doubt they'll have much more than I found online.

So that's how my day went. How about yours?

August 26:

Eek! Perfect!

Okay, I wanted to insert the main characters from "Spy Hill" into this scene in "Rain," because they'd be helping defend the train against an attack by the 8th Landstead military on the 9th Landstead passengers. The scene had to be set in 1887, because that's when the Mippite protagonist in the scene was eighteen (which was important for the plot). But how old were the characters from "Spy Hill" at that time? I was sort of hoping they'd be in their youth, so that they'd be on equal terms with the Mippite. So I checked the chronology in "Spy Hill":

"Well, after we'd attended university - together, of course - we'd been too busy with naval battles [between the 9th Landstead and the 8th Landstead] to worry about such matters. That was half a lifetime ago . . ."

(Counts back twenty-five years, which is roughly half a lifetime ago, if this took place soon after university.)

Ohmygodohmygodohmygod. *Twenty-five years ago was 1887! The battle scene in "Rain" was when that war began!*

I so love it when my Muse is in syncopation with me.

Your mentor (breathing on nails)

August 27:

Five thousand words of fic written today; I finished the novelette, "Rain." I haven't written that much in one day since January 2010, two months before my inflammation prostrated me. Next I'm going to finish up the Eternal Dungeon (*pauses to check current wordage*)-- Oh, I imagine the next story in "Bonds" will turn out to be a novelette. Unless my characters get carried away. (I'm always horrible at those word counters for writers that expect you to know beforehand how long the story you're working on is going to be. How the heck should I know? I haven't written it yet. "Rain" was supposed to be a short-short.)

I sent a letter to [a certain person], asking her for info on my health insurance. I might as well squeeze blood from a stone; I've been trying to extract this information from her for nearly a year now. I also sent a letter to Steve Berman with proofing queries. Mdbl just sent me some gorgeous shonen ai art to include in Fan Fiction Fan, hurrah. So I've got everyone's contributions now; all I need to do is finish up the editing.

I'm going to get as far as I can tonight in editing Fan Fiction Fan; when daylight comes, the kitchen floor awaits my mop.
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