goals, ITSW, writing

What’s to Come

Ever since committing whole-heartedly to being a writer, I’ve taken the time every six months or so to sit down and plan out what I’m going to do next. This keeps me committed, keeps me on schedule, helps me practice hitting deadlines, and reminds me that new projects should always be just around the corner.

As we head into June, I find myself at one of those junctures. It is time – again – to plan out the next few months and to shape where I would like to go. Now that The Impossible Contract is – mostly – done and I have to wait for my second round of queries to go through, I need something else to focus on.

Unfortunately, at least for June, I can’t stray too far. I still have to wait for beta feedback and be ready to make a few last minute edits. When it comes to writing, I’ve tried multitasking on multiple projects and it just doesn’t work.

My solution is actually pretty simple: I won’t stray far. Instead, I’ll play with this short story that has to do with some events that happen off screen in the middle of the book. It’ll be fun and it’ll keep me writing and it shouldn’t be longer than 15k – perfect for a month.

But after that…

Well, July brings Camp NaNoWriMo, which is ideal timing for the start of a new WIP. 30 days and 50k words should give me a pretty good idea of whether or not this next story is workable. Considering I don’t think this story will be longer than 80k – it’s YA, after all – a 50k word draft zero is ideal. I’ve learned that I frequently have to add a lot more to my first draft, which seems to be the opposite of most writers’ processes.

In August, I’ll cool down with some edits and/or research. For TIC, I did draft zero in one big, two month & 80k burst, then I took a month and shored up the research I’d begun while writing. I can see myself doing something similar, even though this new WIP (OIBM) shouldn’t need as much research.

Then September  onwards – rewrite rewrite rewrite. Depending on where I am in the rest of my life (my job might be changing, we might be moving, there might be some other big changes), I’ll set mini goals for those months. I’m not even going to try to set them now, though, since life is quite volatile at the moment.

Ideally, I’ll be done with the first major rewrite by December. If I follow remotely the same trajectory as TIC, then January-February will be the last of my edits before I round up some betas.

But that’s more than six months out, so I’ll reevaluate at that point. As much as I love TIC, I’m really looking forward to starting a new project.

helpful tips, ITSW, whimsical

On Wearing Black in the Desert

One of my beta readers recently asked about the black tents one of the cultures in The Impossible Contract use in the middle of a Sahara-like desert. The question reminded me about the wholly counterintuitive use of black fabric in extreme heat and how, paradoxically, black fabric is actually superior to white in a handful of small, but incredibly important, ways.

Yes, the color black absorbs more heat than white, and white reflects more heat than black. But according to a study done in 1980, Why Do Bedouins Wear Black Robes in Hot Deserts?, there is a lot more going on than that. One very brave volunteer donned both a full white robe and an equivalent black one and stood for 30 minutes facing the sun at midday in the desert. The temperature ranged from a moderate 95F to a more intense 115F. Talk about dedication!

The results were surprising: according to the article, “the amount of heat gained by a Bedouin exposed to the hot desert is the same whether he wears a black or a white robe. The additional heat absorbed by the black robe was lost before it reached the skin.”

But why is that? Another scientific study done prior to the let’s-make-an-undergrad-stand-for-an-extended-period-of-time-in-the-desert experiment measured how various colors and types of bird plumage released or trapped heat. In 1978, Walsberg, Campbell, & King examined what happened when black or white plumage was fluffed up or flattened down when introduced to heat. To make their study even more interesting, they also varied the wind speed.

What they found was that while fluffed, white plumage let the most heat escape when there was no wind, when there was any sort of modest wind, black fluffed plumage fared much better.

The reason for this somewhat surprising discovery is actually at the beginning of this post: white reflects heat the best. That means from the sun, yes, but also from your own body. So all that heat you’re putting off just gets reflected back at you when you wear white. Black absorbs the heat from both the sun and your body, and as long as the fabric is loose enough for wind to get through, that heat radiates outwards instead of inwards and gets swept away.

Convection only sweetens the deal: in drawing heat away from the body, black fabric encourages more air flow. This works equally well for tents. The black then absorbs any heat from the bodies beneath it while creating a nice, gentle breeze. Ideally.

While you might not notice a difference in most of the United States, maybe next time you take a sojourn through the Sahara or Death Valley, you should try wearing black.

helpful tips, querying

#Pitmad Coming Up on June 4th!

Although I have been around the internet since modems made that awful dialing noise while they connected – or rather, tried to connect – and I have been on Facebook and Livejournal and now WordPress since forever, I have had a hard time with Twitter. It’s such a fleeting, ephemeral platform, where there is no past and everything must be condensed into a 140 character soundbite.

Not for want of trying, of course. But my relationship with Twitter has been like a reverse Brokeback Mountain – I can’t stop quitting you. Now that I have a Smart Phone, though, it’s become a tad bit easier. It still seems like the shallowest of the social media forms, but maybe that’s to be embraced instead of rejected.

Plus, there are a ton of writer resources on Twitter that just can’t be found elsewhere. Agents posting their wishlists (#MSWL). Genre-related chats. Industry-related topics (#publishing). Writerly camaraderie and community (#amwriting).

But the resources I am currently the most excited about are the contests. Specifically, the pitch contests. More specifically, #PitMad.

If you are like me and have had your head under a rock for the past few years, then you should know that #PitMad is a quarterly pitch contest on Twitter wherein writers tweet their appropriately-tagged novel pitches into the ether and real live agents read and sort and favorite them. It’s one way to get ahead of the slush pile and/or seize the attention of agents not currently open to unsolicited queries.

The next #PitMad event is just next week: June 4, 2015. That is more than enough time to come up with two-three different pitches, each perfect in their own way and yet also able to build on each other.

So if you’re a writer with a completed and ready-to-query manuscript – come join me in this pitch event! You can follow me on Twitter @KA_Doore.