The problem with time travel stories is this: what’s to stop a character after the story is “over” from going back to undo the entire thing and thus negating the entire sequence of events? Since the life of the main character has been presented in anything but chronological sequence, what constitutes an “ending”?
It was a thorny problem, and one I’ve been struggling with. But as it turns out, I left myself an opening way back on day two of NaNoWriMo. I had a somewhat sinister character that was sent back in time to cause havoc and later had her “die” (read: I forgot about her, and when I remembered her, I just had the other characters remark that they hadn’t heard from her in a while, and therefore she must be dead).
Now she gets to the be one who shoots the female lead character and the reason time travel is stopped, all in one fell swoop. It makes more sense in my head than it does written down here for those of you who haven’t read the story. Which is, you know…everyone.
My goal to finish this story was “before the end of January,” and that is looming next Monday. But I think I can do it. I wrote 78,000 words in 30 days. I can write 10,000 in a week. And if not, I can just travel back in time and…wait. I think I’m getting too close to the story.
After this one is over, I have three short stories I’d like to finish and another new one I want to write in its entirety. Two of the four are werewolf stories (not sexy werewolves), another is a comical first-contact story told from the viewpoint of the aliens, and the new one is set in the same universe as my urban fantasy novels Perdition’s Flames and Death Scene, excerpts of which are available at the top of the page, if you so desire. The short will tell the story of how Nick, the main character, came to realize he had magical powers. I can’t wait to start it, which means I have to hunker down and get Killing Time done.
But right now, I’m off to my regular Tuesday night critique session with the other Fountain Pen members.
|Project working title: Killing Time
New words: 1,938
Current total words: 81,555
Reason for stopping: Lunch was over.
- As I said above, I finally found how to “get out gracefully.” This is, after all, a story about time travel. How do you exit that gracefully, and make sure the story is over when it’s over?
- Made copious notes on how to fill out this rediscovered character and make her be the fall guy (gal?) that is the catalyst for the climax of the story.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This story engaged me from the first paragraph all the way through to the last. It sucked me in, and I found myself wanting to read more.
I liked the main character, the automaton Mattie, but from the get-go, I either disliked or was ambivalent toward most of the other characters with the exception of Niobe and the soul-smoker.
I think I have everything set up, now, for the next several “climactic” scenes, each taking place from a different POV or in a different time frame. Did I mention that Killing Time is a time-travel story set simultaneously in the present; multiple, parallel pasts; and the distant future? Well, it is. And keeping track of all that may prove to be too much for me, but we’ll see if I can pull all the threads together and make the ending a little less unsatisfying. That was one of the big complaints of the people who read it when it was a 12,000-word novelette. Too much exposition (for a 12,000 word story, probably 6,000 of that was exposition. <cringe> Exposition about how time travel works. <double cringe> Yeah. I know. I promise that ratio is much better, now. And the ending was anticlimactic. That was partly by design, and I’m keeping some of that, but adding more detail to clarify why it’s designed that way. Hopefully, my alpha readers will get it.
At least no one died in this scene. That’s a nice change. (No, really, that’s not facetious. I have a truly staggering body count in this one.)
There are between four and eight more scenes left to write, depending on how I feel when I start writing them. I have a lot of loose threads. If each scene is between 2500 and 5500 words long, I’ll crack 100,000 for sure.
Um, yeah. A chapter should be around 2500.
Well, we’ll see. :)
[Note: I’m experimenting with using a photo from Flickr that is available under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license, but I’m not 100% sure exactly how to do that other than what I did, so I apologize heartily if I got it wrong and I will fix it if someone lets me know.]
- I have a bad respiratory infection, causing me to cough like mad, and the medicine is making me a little loopy.
Ideally, these goals should stretch us as writers, but not be so bold as to be impossible. I mean, that’s the definition of a good goal, right? It’s all well and good to say “I’ll write four complete novels in 2011,” but it’s quite another thing to find the time—and the ideas—to do it.
I’ve taken a seminar on goal-setting. They stressed the importance for goals being SMART. That’s Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. Well, the Measurable and Timely are already taken care of: Measurable = a finished project and Timely = by the end of 2011.
So I’m left with Specific, Attainable, and Realistic.
Specific is also pretty easy to do in writing. Specific for me will be either a novel, novella, novelette, short story, or flash. So that’s another one out of the way, and I’m left with Attainable and Realistic, which sort of go together.
For the last five years, I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo. The first two years, I crashed and burned because I didn’t have an idea what I was writing before I started. I foolishly thought I could just pound out 50,000 words in 30 days with no preparation. With no idea of a plot, characters, or setting.
The last three years, I won1 by completing 50,000 words in 30 days. All three times, I intimately knew my characters, setting, and where I wanted the plot to go. The rules say you don’t start writing the story until November 1: you can do as much preparation as you want before that.
This is where Attainable and Realistic come in. I know that I can write 50,000 words in 30 days. I know that, in fact, I can write 78,000 words in 30 days if I’m really motivated, because that’s how far I got in November of 2010.
But it really burns me out. I haven’t written but about 1000 words since November 30th. So being able to do a thing for a short while and being able to do it every day for a year are vastly different things. At 2,500 words/day, I could, conceivably, write 912,500 words before the end of 2011, but that would drive me clinically insane, I think.
So, that being said, here are what I believe are Attainable, Realistic goals:
- Finish my 2010 NaNoWriMo SF novel Killing Time by the end of January.
- Edit/rewrite Killing Time before the end of June.
- Finish my urban fantasy novel Perdition’s Flames by the end of June.
- Edit/rewrite Perdition’s Flames before the end of December.
- Write 15,000 words of new short fiction by June 30, 2011
- Submit at least one piece of short fiction for publication.
- Submit ~8000 words to Viable Paradise by June 15.
- Critique regularly for the Quillians, Lawrenceville SF & Fantasy Writing Group, and The Fountain Pen. (This is a gimme, since I already mostly do this, but I could do better.)
- Regularly submit for critique for all three groups.
When put down in writing, this doesn’t seem like a lot. But as of this entry, Killing Time is at 78,989 words and needs to be about 100,000. Perdition’s Flames is at 35,538 words, will probably be right at 50,000 or 60,000 when “finished,” and then must be edited to flesh it out to be about 100,000 words. And 15,000 words of new fiction in half of the year is kind of a group goal that we were challenged to take on by Sherry, one of the members of the Quillians. I have a good number of short stories that are either unfinished or need editing to be ready to submit. And one new short that’s clamoring to be written set in the same universe as my urban fantasy novels.
The two “submit” goals are the ones that are my “stretch.” I’ve never submitted anything to be published because I’ve never felt anything was “ready.” And so that’s where all the critiquing comes in. The only way I can know if I’m getting better is for people to tell me that the story is ready. Or not.
Three of the last four goals aren’t time-constrained because they’re not independent goals. They rely on the input of other people and the completion of other items, so it’s impossible for me to say “Submit a story for publication by March 1″ because I might not have anything ready by then. The Viable Paradise one is constrained because there is a deadline for submission. For those that don’t know, Viable Paradise is a week-long, residential writers workshop held on (in?) Martha’s Vineyard in the fall of each year. As a side goal, I’d like to read something by each of this year’s instructors, as well. Just to get to know their work.
So, anyway, those are my writing goals for 2011. They’re subject to change as situations change, but I hope that I will add to them rather than dropping any of them.
[Note: As an added comment: I first posted this using a Mac-based blog client called Blogo. It pretty much screwed the format, and will not be used again. Thank goodness for trial versions. I hope none of you saw the first version and were appalled.]
- You don’t actually win anything other than the satisfaction of having accomplished the seemingly impossible.