What I’m up to - January 2022
Striding boldly into 2020/2.
This is a cross-post from my current Now page.
Yet again, putting something in Things as a recurring task list shows its value. Here I am again!
- The first half of January has been pretty quiet, in terms of my own writing, largely because I spent all of December and the Christmas break working on The Burning Line for my agent. I sent the new draft off to Harry on January 5th, along with a very long list of things I’d changed and 22,000 new words.
- There’s a pretty high chance that the total word count will need to come down, so now I’m preparing myself for an edit in the not-too-distant to trim a few thousand words back out. A year or two ago, I would have found this prospect exceptionally daunting, but one of the big advantages of really committing to learning to edit over the last year has been that it has lost much of its mystery. Worrying about editing is infinitely more exhausting than just getting in there and moving words around. And being in a couple of really amazing critique groups has shown me that there is a lot of editing which can radically improve the flow and readability of a piece without really touching the story or the feel of the writing. One thing you can become blind to in your own writing is what I call ‘packing peanuts’ - the language equivalent of filler that just takes up space. Once you get your eye in for this, you can strip out a thousand words or more in any given chapter or scene without even really trying that hard. Bigger structural edits are (a lot) harder, but this kind of editing is relatively painless to do and can really improve a story or chapter.
- So in the middle two weeks of January, I’ve been taking a wee break - sleeping in an extra hour in the morning, reading some books, doing a lot of reading for my critique groups and playing around with an idea or two. I find I have the confidence to do this now since I changed the way I measure writing effort. When writing is an ingrained habit, you can take a week or two away from it without worrying that you’re somehow going to break the magic spell and never write again.
- If I reach the end of my break and edits from Harry are still extant, I’ll be polishing up some short stories and working on outlines for the next book. But I won’t start on a new novel-length project until The Burning Line goes out on submission. Then I’ll definitely start a new novel-length project mainly to stop myself thinking about The Burning Line being out on submission.
- I’ve been mostly reading shorts and novels from my critique groups so far this year. I joined a new (and amazing) critique group with a small and very committed membership late last year (which has been a revelatory and wonderful experience) and I’m catching up with everyone’s work so that I can offer effective commentary on new chapters. It’s been an absolute delight.
- The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi - Just picked this up after having it on my wish list for absolutely ages and it’s got a stonker of an opening chapter. I remember reading the short story The Tamarisk Hunter set in roughly the same world, as well as Bacigalupi’s earlier works and really enjoying them, so I will probably race through this one.
- Leviathan Falls by James S. A. Corey - Paused this early in the month due to critique group reading, but I’m back on it now.
- Too Like The Lightning by Ada Palmer - I’ve made zero progress on this, mainly due to critique group reading.
- I mean, it’s Covid, innit. I work at home, I go for walks, I see family and a few close friends in covid-safe ways.
- I’m also helping a family member deal with a leak in their home, which has been Not Fun. But the leak itself has been stopped now, thank goodness, so we’re just progressing through organising moving stuff out of the affected rooms and repair work.
- The lengthening days are really helping my mood, although it has been unseasonably warm. I really shouldn’t be able to work in my back garden for over an hour in a t-shirt, in January. And yet I did that yesterday.
- A week of my off time remaining, which I will be using to indulge in more sleep.
- From next week, I’ll be back to the morning writing routine, hopefully with a bit more morning light to help me along. I’ll also be polishing up and submitting a couple of more short stories that I drafted late last year, as well as revisiting some shorts that I wrote a while back but didn’t do much with. With my new critique group, I feel that I can get the kind of feedback which may shift a merely readable story or two into publishable.
- I’m also going to shift these to the end of the month, rather than the middle of the month where I accidentally ended up doing them thanks to all the exciting publishing stuff that happened in November and December. So my next one of these will be at the end of February.