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Saturday, April 26, 2003

I can't even remember when I first started giving my "Hour-a-Day Novel" workshop at Capilano College. Sometime in the mid-1980s? It runs two or three times a year, and everyone always enjoys it--especially me, though I end up (as I did today) with almost no voice. Seven hours of ranting will do that to you.

This was a small group, just 8, and it worked well. Lots of questions, some good discussion, and a sunny day as well.

So of course no writing got done today. Even an hour would be hard to manage when I'm this tired. Still, I've done some thinking about my current projects.

A couple of days ago I tried an experiment: I ripped 7000 words out of the 22,000-word main section of Deserters, a novel I've been fretting over for close to seven years. I realized that one of the characters was blocking progress...she comes in early, has an affair with the protagonist, Jack, and then disappears when she ditches him.

Off and on I've considered doing this, but never quite had the courage to kick her out of the story. And she'll probably stay in as a minor character. But it really feels as if I've cleared the air. Jack can now spend the first 50,000 words or so doing what's he supposed to: researching the life of his hero David Stackley, a Canadian World War I novelist, and trying to figure out how his own life went wrong thirty years before.

I did something similar a few years ago with another novel: pulled 20,000 words out of it. The rest of the story wasn't even affected; that's how detached this plot strand was, though it took me years to realize it.

So I have a lot of work to do on Deserters, but it's going to be much more constructive than what I've done in trying to make this annoying young woman fit into a story where she never really belonged.

I told the workshop a bit about Henderson's Tenants, my SF novel ... which is going slowly but well. I think it'll develop some remarkable surprises as it grows--surprises for Mike Henderson, my protagonist, but also for me. Having saved his own life by designing nanotech robots that eat his pancreatic cancer, Mike is going to find that the nanobots also want to re-design him. From the point of view of the rest of humanity, Mike is going to become the archetypal monstrous menace, something to be exterminated. From his own point of view, he's going to be a badly needed upgrade to ordinary humanity...not a view widely shared.

As serious as the subject is, I can see the story teetering into some kind of goofy humor from time to time. The nanobots, capable though they are, are going to be a bit naive about some things, which will get Mike into trouble more absurd than dangerous.

More tomorrow...including, I hope, a report on progress made on one or both projects.

Friday, April 25, 2003

This is a blog where I'm going to try to keep a daily record of various writing projects--mostly so that I can talk to myself about what's working or not working in those projects. You're welcome to eavesdrop and to offer your own comments by e-mail.

I'll also talk about teaching, which after 35 years is still wonderful fun. And when I feel a rant coming on about political or social issues, this is where I'll put it. As time goes by, I'll try to add links to sites I think worth visiting: news, advocacy, blogs, whatever.

By the way, I'm also offering two free books, available in PDF files:
Bring the Jubilee: Fifteen Years in Computer Education
and
Work in Progress: Collected Essays, 1972-2002
Each is about half a meg, and you're welcome to pass it along to others if you wish.

These two books are part of a project I've been working on as part of a year's paid educational leave. The other two books include a novel, Deserters, and a revision of a textbook in workplace writing. I'll probably talk more about the novel than the textbook. But, blessed as I am with a short attention span, I have other projects going as well. One is a science-fiction novel, Henderson's Tenants, and I pick up other short-term writing jobs as well: speeches, reviews, articles. I'll talk about them too. Like teaching, writing is a skill you never master. You just get less bad at it.

So let us begin again...

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