Author Updates

A monthly progress report on my current work and my writing life.

August 8, 2022

Chihuly sculpture in Seattle

I’m sorry to say August is not looking like a great writing month. July was terrific and I was on a roll, and for a while I was hoping that the first draft would be done before I started my new job. I didn’t make it, and there’s been a dramatic drop in writing hours. I’m at least managing to stay connected to the story through short sessions, so although I’ve lost momentum I haven’t lost fluency. And, although I’m not spending as much quality time with my trusty MacBook Pro, I am still thinking about these characters and their situations and the creative process is still clicking along.

One of the things I’m enjoying about Safe Conduct is working in the connections to the storyline of Signal. For instance, while Piers is on the planet, he’s trying not to think too much about what’s going on “back home,” but the people on the ship are quite naturally thinking a lot about the planet. So they are fascinated by the scouts’ reports. That gives me a chance to touch a bit on what the other scouts are finding—which Piers doesn’t know. It’s fun, and it’s letting me add some more detail and depth to the story-world, which is one of my favorite parts of writing fiction. It’s also one way I’m trying to make sure that these two books feel connected, so that the next book feels like the continuation of both of these. 

July 10, 2022

I’m happy to report that after a little slow-down, I’ve been making great progress on Safe Conduct in the past few weeks. It’s extra fun to write when everything is flowing—the characters are running the scenes and I’m just writing down what I see happening. 

In the past few writing sessions, I “witnessed” a couple of brawls over a disagreement about the ship’s landing plans. One of those led to the first significant disciplinary action taken on the ship in years, and resulted in a chance for me to write a speech for the captain. If it hasn’t already become obvious, I love working out what makes all the characters do what they do, from the backstory that makes one of them sensitive to a certain insult to the secret that leads someone else to make an indecipherable decision. Matching internal reality with descriptions of what’s happening around the characters is a thoroughly satisfying aspect of writing fiction. It’s “finding the why.” 

If the muse continues to be as cooperative as she has been in the past two weeks, I’m optimistic that I may finish the first draft only a few weeks after my target deadline. Then the revising and refining stage… But it’s getting there!

I am running a few weeks behind because of things happening in my real life, which still has to take priority over my fictional life. I like to joke that I’d rather be writing because in fiction I can control what happens. I’m not sure that’s as true as is sounds, though—the people on Redemption seem pretty sure that they are calling the shots.

I’m eager to get this book in the hands of readers and to keep going into book 3. I adore Kath, Jamie, and the others who are in this story, and I also can’t wait to be reunited with Piers and his friends. I think it’s going to be tremendous fun to see what Atto thinks of Redemption, for instance. I hope you’re looking forward to it, too.

June 8, 2022

Last weekend was one of my best writing weekends in years—in the flow! It’s so exciting to be working at that pace, and I’m in the race to the finish with Safe Conduct now. I am pushing myself to see if I can finish the first draft before the relocation project really begins in earnest; I’d love to get it done before I start the new job but that isn’t looking too plausible despite the fact that I’m in the fast-moving part now. I feel like every minute of my free time is going to writing. Might not be healthy, but it certainly is satisfying!

It’s clear at this point that revision is going to be a Major Project this fall. The draft is already over 161K words, which is just a little shy of the longest draft of Signal, and I’m not that close to the end. From reader reactions to Signal, I’m no longer panicked that no one will tolerate a long book (take that, marketing advice)—but long and sprawling are different. I’m already aware of some places I want to tighten up, but I won’t know how much I need to do until I really dig in. I’m actually looking forward to it, though. That’s the jigsaw puzzle.

My hope/plan (at the moment it’s hard to tell the difference) is to plough through the rest of the first draft to get it all down. Then I’ll let the draft sit for maybe two weeks before revision begins. During that breather, I hope to dig through my files and find some bonus material from Signal that I can share with anyone who’s missing Piers and his crew as much as I am. 

May 8, 2022

Wonderful: people have said they enjoyed A Signal for Redemption. Fantastic: they really, really want to know what happens next. And yet: I’m 120k words into a draft that won’t answer that question. As I’ve told several people, Safe Conduct is like reading between the lines of Signal. It helps fill in some important gaps, so it’ll be worth it. I (hope) promise.

The past few weeks have had little bit of go-slow-to-go-fast. For about a week, the characters were just milling around and seemed rather uninterested in doing what they were supposed to do. I don’t like to fight them, so I was hoping it would sort out and we could get on with the story, but there was some frustration going. I do recall this phase from writing the first book, and so I finally had to admit that I need to do some revision to get things back on track. I’d been resisting that, because I wanted to just get the story down first and it felt like it’d be giving in and scratching a mosquito bite. Revising is a different mindset, but I need to do something to get this herd of cats to move along. It still seems strange to me that they can have minds of their own. 

On the other hand, these wrong turns are part of how I get to know them. Even though a lot of what I’m drafting now will end up “on the cutting room floor,” it’s how I learn their voices, their hopes and fears—it’s how I learn to love them. Now that I am getting better acquainted, I’m starting to think it may be time to work on character introductions for my new friends, like the ones for some of the Signal characters on my website. You won’t be totally wrong if you think I’m working on those as a form of procrastination.