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There’s a meme going around about publishing, and which manuscripts make the cut and which ones don’t. Ordinarily I don’t participate in these things, not because I’m too good for them or anything, but because I’m too lazy — but I’ve had about half a dozen people ask me to throw my answers up, so here you go:

Reign of the Desert Snow. Cheesy enough title for you? Well, in my defense I was in seventh grade when I wrote this one. It was about 200 pages long, and it was about me and my cousins helping a mafia don’s daughter escape from the clutches of a drug dealer inside the Great Pyramid at Giza. Then one day the disc upon which this MASTERPIECE was saved … died. I lost the whole thing. At the time, I was inconsolable. In retrospect, I am overjoyed.

Heirloom. This one got started when I was about fourteen. It actually began with a pretty cool scene (which I won’t repeat here, since I sort of plan to revisit it someday), but basically it was a Mary Sue romp about a psychic girl who talked to animals and traveled through time for reasons which now elude me. I’m sure that those reasons seemed reasonable at the time.

Who Buried the Gravedigger? My first full-length ghost story, about 120 pages written when I was 15-16. This one was about a guy who was accused of killing his whole family (thus earning the nickname “The Gravedigger”) … but then he disappeared the night before his trial — having been a victim of the very same murderer who offed his relatives. Somehow this ghost story also turned into a time traveling thing. It was deeply stupid, I assure you.

The Pentagonal. My attempt at epic fantasy, undertaken when I was about 18. It has some strong story elements, all of which were executed with high-level idiocy. It was basically a five-part quest fable about the search for a criminal who escapes from a magical prison called “the Pentagonal.” My college roommate (hi, Lennie!) seemed to really like this one; I used to read it to her as a bedtime story. The whole thing topped out around 170 pages.

Whilom. Written maybe a year later, it was an attempt to invent a new monster. It was not a very good attempt, really. the whole thing was finished at 100 pages, and it was too literal to be a fable, but too mythic to be good urban fantasy.

Piper. My re-tread of the Pied Piper myth, tarted up as a modern fable my junior year of college. The pipe itself was made from a piece of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. It ended up being an oddball travelogue that was frankly bad, though the core of the story was an idea I liked. I later turned it into the short story “Following Piper,” which was published by Subterranean #6. Let it not be said that I’m the kind of woman who wastes a good idea.

Fathom: the First Attempt. I wrote my first draft of Fathom while I was still in college, late in my senior year. It was based on a dream fragment that was basically finished at 90 pages; but everyone who ever read those 90 pages loved them, and wanted more. I tried to comply. My efforts mostly sucked.

Fathom: Attempts Two through Four. Graduate school. Attempts to re-work the original story into something that would work, all of them whole-heartedly terrible. I did not succeed until Liz helped me give it a fresh pair of eyes last year, and now this novel will be appearing — in a much improved form — this coming winter.

Awake Into Darkness: First Attempt. Wrote this one between Fathom and sort of while I was working on 4&20bb’s first edition. Trashy vampire stuff. Good fun, but not a good book. I threw it all out and have started rewriting it with a new vision and a much better protagonist.

Four and Twenty Blackbirds: Take One. The first edition of this book was instigated when I was about 23, while I was still in graduate school and working three jobs. I was the assistant to the head of the rhetoric department, adjunct faculty, and an assistant director for the school aged child care program at a school in East Ridge, Tennessee. And oh yeah. I was a full time student, too. Anytime I find myself whining about not having any time to write, I remind myself of this fact and then I shut the fuck up. This first edition was picked up by a micro-press which will remain nameless, for I would prefer to forget the whole experience. Then I heard from Tor. And the rest was history.

There. I’ve participated.

And now for today’s progress on the west coast steampunk Victoriana book with zombies, air ships, toxic gas clouds, mad scientists, dead folk heroes, secret criminal societies, and Bonus! extended deleted scenes from the Civil War:

Project: The Boneshaker
Present Total Word Count: 83,401 words
Goal: 100,000 words by July 1

Things Accomplished in Fiction: Assaulted by a mad scientist; reunited with lost children; treated like hell; ran like crazy; shot up some more zombies; learned that strange things have been going on — well, even stranger things.

Other Observations: Nearly derailed myself today, trying to merge (a). Briar’s narrative with (b). Zeke’s narrative, which I haven’t actually written yet. This is trickier than it looks. I know basically what Zeke’s been up to, and who he’s been running around with … but actually bringing all this together has snared me several times. I strongly considered abandoning this to go back and write Zeke’s sections, but I wanted to move forward with this Nearing The End momentum while I had it. If I need to, I can always rewrite or revise later.

Things Accomplished in Real Life: Basically nothing. Dyed hair. Let the cat and the laptop duel for my lap space. Cleaned up a little. Went to the drug store to get a few last-minute things before leaving town. That’s about it.

Reason for Stopping: I’m hungry. Also, I am tired of staring at the screen, and my boobs are falling asleep from sitting here for 2 hours, wearing the cat like a very fat scarf.

Total Fiction Words Composed in 2008: 151,976

[Crossposted from my website. If you'd like to comment, you can do so either here or there.]



( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 17th, 2008 12:54 am (UTC)
" I did not succeed until Liz helped me give it a fresh pair of eyes last year, and now this novel will be appearing — in a much improved form — this coming winter."

I read this as, "until Liz gave me a fresh pair of eyes last year..."

Figures. The editor just as morbid as the author. :P
Apr. 17th, 2008 01:36 am (UTC)
Cool! Thanks for sharing that!
Apr. 17th, 2008 02:19 am (UTC)
I found the pieces parts
of a novel I started and got well in to in high school. If i'd finished all the plot complications I kept thinking up, the cube of paper for the finished novel would have been a 8'x8'x8' cube...

And one i wrote in the late 80s is too, too Mary Sue. My publications are short stories, I seemed to get that form down right.

I've been toying with an idea for a novel, and right now my time is my own. And I finally came up with the major antagonist/complication while watching "True Crimes" on TV during the day (I gave a piece/part to my writing group introducing the protagonist and his helper to my writing group and they were all "We want more. Better organized would help but it's a good idea.).

Where do you get the word count doohicky? (thanks in advance if you can guide me there, my email is dragonet@kc.rr.com.)

Apr. 17th, 2008 02:26 am (UTC)
Re: I found the pieces parts
Here you go: via Writertopia. Check their tool box section for a variety of options.
Apr. 17th, 2008 02:43 am (UTC)
Let the cat and the laptop duel for my lap space.

Who won?
Apr. 17th, 2008 10:35 pm (UTC)
Laptop. I've got some nerve issues in my right shoulder, and I can't type while she's lying across me, because my shoulder hurts too much. So she got the boot :)
Apr. 17th, 2008 04:26 am (UTC)
You learn something new every day...
That's a *lot* of attempts, and some early and long ones... also, I wasn't aware boobs were capable of falling asleep... o.0
Apr. 17th, 2008 05:34 am (UTC)
Fathom: Attempts Two through Four
Is that rather like the castle that sank into the swamp, then burned down, fell over, and sank into the swamp? I hear the fifth one was great ;)

(Actually i think there my analogy fails, because if memory serves it was the fourth castle that stayed. Oh well, Monty Python can't count to 5 and neither can i.)
Apr. 17th, 2008 10:37 am (UTC)
I tried to leave this comment on your website - and it spat back a whole PAGE of errors....

I like the new design here (which probably is a belated statement, but I didn't have Internet access for over a month).

Think you'll revisit any others of your old writing attempts aside from the few you've resurrected already?

And curiosity gets the best of me, what's the hair color now?
Apr. 17th, 2008 10:35 pm (UTC)
Hey there :) Thanks -- and you're right re: the site, but it's fixed now. Thanks for the heads up :)

Right now, my hair color is basically dark purple/red; I'm going to put copper/red streaks in it tonight, for giggles.
Apr. 17th, 2008 01:45 pm (UTC)
Remember how you had me give Who Buried the Gravedigger? to Ms. Lowry to read? And how she (very diplomatically) responded, upon returning it, that it was better than a great many books that are published ...


(who still recalls said teacher's "feminist Tuesdays" with fondness and amusement)
Apr. 20th, 2008 03:47 pm (UTC)
OOOooo yes I do rather fondly recall hearing the Pentagonal, and Whilom too. No one reads me bedtime stories anymore! Sad.
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )