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Paul Tevis

Entries in writing (41)


Writing To Help Writers

I’m hesitant to claim that the privilege of reading my rough drafts is worth paying money for, but I might as well give it a shot.

I’m participating in the Clarion UCSD Write-A-Thon, raising money to support the Clarion Foundation, one of the preeminent incubators of sci-fi and fantasy writers in the world. From now until August 6th, I’ll be posting my daily word counts, as I have been for the last several months. The twist is this: For every dollar that’s donated through my Write-A-Thon writer page, I’ll post 10 words from my current draft of Sun, Moon, and Stars.

I’ve got 24K words right now. How much of it will I be forced to reveal?


Fitness: Rest day (race tomorrow!)
Sun, Moon, and Stars: 260 words, 253 seven-day average, 255 average, 24242 total

Fictional Dates

Today on Twitter I said:

And the plot calendar proves its worth. Now I know how my protagonist knows someone is lying.

This provoked a number of responses that boiled down to “Please explain.” So I will.

A few years ago I was staying with my friend Ken in for a days before heading to GenCon. While I was there, he received a package in the mail, which turned out to be a copy of John Berlyne’s Powers: Secret Histories — A Bibliography. It’s a collection of the ephemera surrounding Tim Powers’ writing, giving a comprehensive view how Tim writes and how he’s grown as a writing. One thing that Ken drew my attention to was the original “plot calendar” for Last Call[1]. Basically, it was a calendar where each day was marked with what happened on that day in the novel.

Fast forward to today, where I’m writing a mystery novel. The events that the protagonist is investigating all happened before the book started, so when he talks to be people, they all mention things like “that was two weeks ago” or “that was two days before my mother died.” I knew I needed to keep these things straight, so I put together a calendar to rationalize it all. Then I realized that because one of the things the protagonist discovers in chapter seven is a ledger with some of these dates written down, he knows that when one of the characters tells him something in chapter twenty-two that doesn’t match, he’s probably being lied to. And so with twenty minutes worth of work I figured out how to get my protagonist to suspect the person I need him to suspect.

1 Which is my favorite Powers’ book, even if it isn’t his best.2

2 Which is Declare, of course.


Fitness: Biked 7 miles
Sun, Moon, and Stars: 256 words, 200 seven-day average, 253 average, 23068 total

Link Roundup For 18 June 2011

Writing edition


Fitness: Ran 7 miles
Sun, Moon, and Stars: 306 words, 247 seven-day average, 258 average, 20678 total

It's About Connections

I have fallen in love with TiddlyWiki.

I’ve long been a fan of wikis. I was active on the very first wiki, the Portland Pattern Repository, back before Wikipedia was started. I’m a synthetic thinker, so its no surprise that the hyper-connected nature of wikis appeals to me. They allow me to de-linearize information in a way that just works for me.

I didn’t get TiddlyWiki at first. I knew I wanted a personal wiki to keep track of information for Dying Kingdoms. A few searches mentioned it, so I decided to give it a try. At first, its sheer simplicity confused me. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. And then it clicked: It’s a multi-dimensional notepad. It’s an entire wiki stored in a single file that I can edit from any web browser. And when I keep a copy of it in my Dropbox, it becomes magic.

I started out using it for Dying Kingdoms. By dropping in information from the various documents I had and creating links between them, I started to draw connections between setting elements. Patterns that hadn’t been obvious in separate linear documents suddenly jumped out at me. I started to think how useful it would be to keep track of materials for games that I ran. And then I realized what else I needed to use it for.

So now when I sit down to work on the novel, I set my timer for one Pomodoro. If I hit my 250 word mark before the timer goes off — which I usually do — I open up my magic notepad in a web browser and spend the remaining time following links and filling in holes. Gone are the piles of text documents I was using to try to organize my thoughts. In their place is a whole other brain devoted to this book.


Fitness: None
Sun, Moon, and Stars: 262 words, 262 seven-day average, 264 average, 18506 total

It's Not a Novella Either

I’ve stopped referring to it as a story. I’ve started calling it “the novel.” Under the Nebulas classification scheme it’s technically still a novelette, but there’s no way I’m wrapping things up in the next eight hundred words.

In 2008, I interviewed Monte Cook for Inside the Game Designers Studio. At one point, Monte said that while he’s writing he doesn’t like to talk about the story to other people. Telling it to people, he said, absolves you of the responsibility to actually write it. That made sense to me before; it makes absolute sense to me now. I’ve talked to a few people about the story, and each time afterward I’ve felt my need to write about it diminished. I have gotten some valuable insights from these conversations, and I don’t regret doing it, but it’s a reminder that I need feedback about the words on the page, not about the ideas in my head. Which is why I’m not going to talk about the story here until I’ve written it.

I will probably talk about the process and the structure, since I can’t spend as much time working on something as I am without talking about it at all. Posting my progress here has been a powerful motivator, so I will continue to do that as well. But I don’t want to lay out elements of the fiction until I’ve gotten at least one complete draft done. At the current pace, that should be around the end of September.

I will mention that the working title has changed. It used to be called World’s End. Now, I think it’s called Sun, Moon, and Stars. Which is how I’m going to be referring to it in my updates.

Update: Biked 10 miles
Sun, Moon, and Stars: 268 words, 245 seven-day average, 265 average, 16699 total

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