Charlie's Diary

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Tue, 24 Aug 2004

Decompression time

I'm beginning to decompress, now the rewrite is finally out of the way.

I guess that demands some explanation. When I'm working on a novel I don't (usually) sit down at the word processor at 9am, start writing, and clock off at 5pm. I'm much more likely to crawl out of bed at 10:30am, yawn, switch the kettle on, sit down at the word processor, and check my mail -- then spend the next hour or two web surfing and absorbing caffeine until I feel human. Then I start to write, and if things go well I stop writing when I've temporarily run out of words, my hands begin to hurt, or Feorag threatens me with physical violence if I don't discuss what we're going to have for supper. If things don't go well I generally spend much more time checking my email, poking around the web, posting (and reading) on one discussion forum or another, hoovering the living room, and seeking a Clue as to what I should write.

(This isn't very systematic. But if you can show me a way to systematize creativity I'll give you a billion dollars, and consider myself to have got the best out of the deal.)

There is, however, one constant feature of my life when I'm in writing mode: I'm thinking about the novel to a greater or lesser extent all the time I'm awake. Feorag describes me as being "on Planet Charlie": absent-minded, obsessive, not always responsive to important external stimuli. The rate at which I extrude words isn't necessarily directly proportional to the time I spend sitting at the keyboard -- it's proportional to the rate at which I have ideas or otherwise think my way around the maze that the plot imposes on my creativity. (Writing without at least some reference points, some idea of where I'm coming from and where I'm going, is a bad idea because I can change direction three times in a day: but writing a detailed outline doesn't always help either, because what looks great in outline doesn't always work at ten times the length.)

Putting a novel together is a bit like a cross between digging a ditch and assembling an immense jigsaw puzzle. The ditch-digging is the raw back-work of putting words in a row; the jigsaw puzzle is the art of matching up where the words and sentences should go. In first draft, ditch-digging predominates; in second and subsequent, the jigsaw puzzle comes to the fore. Maybe I should use a programming metaphor and talk about design, coding, and debugging, but that's a bit less of a universal experience -- still, it amounts to much the same.

Anyway: decompression. Decompression starts shortly after I email the manuscript to my editor and get a reply saying "that opened okay". It begins when I manage to internalize the sense that actually I've finished the thing and I don't need to obsessively focus on it any more. Sometimes it doesn't begun until I've overrun and written ten thousand words of sequel before forcing myself to stop. Sometimes I end up using up the energy to write a short story or novella. But there comes a time when I can stretch, blink stupidly, and think, why on earth am I sitting in front of this computer when I just finished the job?

("Because you're already planning the next one, stupid!")

Anyway, now I've handed the thing in, I can decompress a bit and get a life -- for at least a few days, until I have to get on a plane and head for Boston. I've just finished updating my schedule so that in addition to the panels I'm on, it includes little things like lunch dates with editors, unofficial book signings, and parties. And it peaks, on the Saturday at the worldcon, with a nine-hour day (before we get to go to the Hugo Loser's Party).

Decompress? Hah! The only decompression time I'm really going to get is on the airliner from Frankfurt to Boston, in an economy class seat (where there will be insufficient room to pull out a laptop and no internet bandwidth to speak of).

[Discuss conjose]

posted at: 20:24 | path: /fandom | permanent link to this entry

Well, that's done ...

I just finished and mailed off a new draft of a novel for Tor, "The Clan Corporate". Redrafting novels (or writing them in the first place) tends to get in the way of blogging, as do the other little aspects of having a life -- going swimming, watching movies, staining the new bookcases, tidying up the living room, that sort of thing. To make matters worse, there's a shiny new laptop sitting on my desk, waiting for me to move all my stuff across onto it. I'm tempted to do it right away, even though the additional gigabyte of memory it needs is still in the post. (And experience tells me that every time I configure/switch to a new laptop it bites a minimum of two days out of my schedule.) Because it's shiny, as shiny as only a 17" Powerbook can be.

I'm beginning to suspect that I may in fact be an incorrigible geek.

[Discuss toys]

posted at: 08:20 | path: /excuses | permanent link to this entry


Is SF About to Go Blind? -- Popular Science article by Greg Mone
Unwirer -- an experiment in weblog mediated collaborative fiction
Inside the MIT Media Lab -- what it's like to spend a a day wandering around the Media Lab
"Nothing like this will be built again" -- inside a nuclear reactor complex

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Buy my books: (FAQ)

Missile Gap
Via Subterranean Press (US HC -- due Jan, 2007)

The Jennifer Morgue
Via Golden Gryphon (US HC -- due Nov, 2006)

Via (US HC -- due June 30, 2006)

The Clan Corporate
Via (US HC -- out now)

Via (US HC)
Via (US PB -- due June 27, 2006)
Via (UK HC)
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Free download

The Hidden Family
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The Family Trade
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Iron Sunrise
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The Atrocity Archives
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Singularity Sky
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Some webby stuff I'm reading:

Engadget ]
Gizmodo ]
The Memory Hole ]
Boing!Boing! ]
Futurismic ]
Walter Jon Williams ]
Making Light (TNH) ]
Crooked Timber ]
Junius (Chris Bertram) ]
Baghdad Burning (Riverbend) ]
Bruce Sterling ]
Ian McDonald ]
Amygdala (Gary Farber) ]
Cyborg Democracy ]
Body and Soul (Jeanne d'Arc)  ]
Atrios ]
The Sideshow (Avedon Carol) ]
This Modern World (Tom Tomorrow) ]
Jesus's General ]
Mick Farren ]
Early days of a Better Nation (Ken MacLeod) ]
Respectful of Otters (Rivka) ]
Tangent Online ]
Grouse Today ]
Hacktivismo ]
Terra Nova ]
Whatever (John Scalzi) ]
Justine Larbalestier ]
Yankee Fog ]
The Law west of Ealing Broadway ]
Cough the Lot ]
The Yorkshire Ranter ]
Newshog ]
Kung Fu Monkey ]
S1ngularity ]
Pagan Prattle ]
Gwyneth Jones ]
Calpundit ]
Lenin's Tomb ]
Progressive Gold ]
Kathryn Cramer ]
Halfway down the Danube ]
Fistful of Euros ]
Orcinus ]
Shrillblog ]
Steve Gilliard ]
Frankenstein Journal (Chris Lawson) ]
The Panda's Thumb ]
Martin Wisse ]
Kuro5hin ]
Advogato ]
Talking Points Memo ]
The Register ]
Cryptome ]
Juan Cole: Informed comment ]
Global Guerillas (John Robb) ]
Shadow of the Hegemon (Demosthenes) ]
Simon Bisson's Journal ]
Max Sawicky's weblog ]
Guy Kewney's mobile campaign ]
Hitherby Dragons ]
Counterspin Central ]
MetaFilter ]
NTKnow ]
Encyclopaedia Astronautica ]
Fafblog ]
BBC News (Scotland) ]
Pravda ]
Meerkat open wire service ]
Warren Ellis ]
Brad DeLong ]
Hullabaloo (Digby) ]
Jeff Vail ]
The Whiskey Bar (Billmon) ]
Groupthink Central (Yuval Rubinstein) ]
Unmedia (Aziz Poonawalla) ]
Rebecca's Pocket (Rebecca Blood) ]

Older stuff:

June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006
December 2005
November 2005
October 2005
September 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005
May 2005
April 2005
March 2005
February 2005
January 2005
December 2004
November 2004
October 2004
September 2004
August 2004
July 2004
June 2004
May 2004
April 2004
March 2004
February 2004
January 2004
December 2003
November 2003
October 2003
September 2003
August 2003
July 2003
June 2003
May 2003
April 2003
March 2003
February 2003
January 2003
December 2002
November 2002
October 2002
September 2002
August 2002
July 2002
June 2002
May 2002
April 2002
March 2002
(I screwed the pooch in respect of the blosxom entry datestamps on March 28th, 2002, so everything before then shows up as being from the same time)

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