Final Report

The Breathmoss writers began with a variety of goals.  Four targeted word counts ranging from 8,000 to over 40,000 words.   Two undertook to produce three stories apiece, and two set themselves strict writing schedules.

The six weeks are over, and the final report is … our writers acquitted themselves quite well.

Marjorie and Madeleine both met their hourly quotas and then some–Marjorie nearly doubled her hour-a-day goal!  Madeleine, even when the spirit was willing, wisely made herself take weekend breaks, which no doubt accounts for her ability to stay the course even through some tough mid-thon times.

Our story-counting writers also made par.  Don’t go by Nathaniel’s three-fifths-full green meter; he met his original target within the first few weeks.  Dan was the tortoise to Nathaniel’s hare, pulling through at the last second with two out-of-the blue stories.

In a way, our word-counting writers had the hardest job, not because they flagged or failed in setting words to paper but because it’s hard to predict when the words will come (and hard, I think, even to know what counts as a count-worthy word, especially for dedicated revisers and note takers).  The challenge, that is, lies not in running the race but in marking a suitable finish line in advance.

With these qualifications in mind, it’s worth noting that every one of our word-count writers produced at least 10,000 words, one long story’s worth of new material (Merc’s final count reads a bit below 10,000, but that’s because she stopped updated her meter).  Mary and Merc both exceeded their initial goals, while Brandes and Lucy hit the halfway mark.

These specific (and necessarily somewhat arbitrary) goals aside, our writers as a group produced at least eight short stories and multiple novel chapters.  Lucy reworked a novel from scratch, Brandes and Marjorie pushed through to the end of stalled short stories, and several of our writers, to judge by their remarks throughout the thon, developed a deeper understanding of their habits and a deeper appreciation of their abilities.

The Clarion Write-a-thon combines multiple goals, mixing practical fundraising objectives with less quantifiable aims like providing motivation, support, and encouragement.  Our writers did more than pull in donations and pump out paragraphs–they were great teammates, checking in regularly to report on their progress, share drafts, solicit advice, offer encouragement, trade tips, and just chat generally about the writing life.  Most of this community-building took place behind the scenes, on our invisible-to-the-public team message board, but Brandes and Lucy also went the extra mile and contributed posts to the Breathmoss blog.

It’s trite to say that everyone’s a winner.  If our writers had written nothing over the past six weeks, they would, I should think, not be winners.  But they wrote a lot, and more.  They embraced the spirit of the event, entering eagerly into an online community of peers, testing themselves with ambitious goals, hacking through unexpected plot tangles, persevering through deficiencies of energy and time, finding creative ways to work around multiple real-life hassles–and documenting their ups and downs.  It’s fair to say they succeeded on multiple fronts: at writing, at writing about their writing, and at building the habits that will lead to future writing.

Those little test-tube meters on their writer pages underreport the team’s true progress.  Not only did our writers produce more new fiction than those meters indicate (and here’s the one time I’ll bring down the ruler–with a crack on virtual knuckles–remember to update those stats, guys!)–they took time to think and talk about their craft.  Some of our writers plan to send out stories this fall, and some came that much nearer to having full novels on hand.  So keep an eye on the markets for these names, and join with me in congratulating Dan Brian, Madeleine Rose Dimond, Marjorie Farrell, Mary Robinette Kowal, Nathaniel K. Miller, A. Merc Rustad, Brandes Stoddard, and Lucy Stone for  their hard work throughout this dauntingly hot summer.


Frosthallow, pt 2

Dakrah had not considered this possibility; for all his disdain for coin, he was a man of expensive tastes, and had sold his spells at exorbitant rates – not always to the betterment of his current patron. Dakrah inspired fear among the weak or the ignorant, and contempt among the mighty. Indri, meanwhile, was unknown to the weak or the ignorant. When she was not at sea, she lived in the province of Whaler’s Haven, in the domain of Pereil, which is in the utmost north and west of Balioth. The other veytikka of the village of Burnt Hill knew her name and had some thought that she was a person of importance, but the only magic she worked upon them was subtle and gentle. Those who wished to find Indri, for good or ill, did not seek her in Burnt Hill, but in Port Tabrilum, the provincial seat a few hours distant.

As Sandpiper Island is the utmost south and east of Balioth, one accustomed to the common forms of travel might imagine that it was a great burden for a wizard from Pereil to take a ship from Port Tabrilum, around Boar Island, and then hard east along Balioth’s coast to reach a meeting that would last no more than a week, only to turn around and do it all again. This is ludicrous, of course; no ship in Balioth could cut its way through the pack ice that encased all of Pereil from late October through early March. Further, the wizards who could transport themselves across a continent in a single spell are few indeed, and Indri could not count herself among their number. The work is more complicated and chancy than that – and now that you understand the nature of wizards, you may think that you would rather take your chances with the pack ice.

It works something more like this. Long ago, a wizard named Nylmani was perplexed by the difficulty of mastering the magic of solo teleportation. She read every tome of magic that she could lay her hands upon, but found no record that anyone had found an easier means of instantaneous travel. The library from which she worked stood in the city of Lirane, which was flooded by snowmelt, year in and year out, on the tenth day of April. The rushing waters swept away the city’s bridges, and it was necessary for carpenters and masons to rebuild them, starting on the first day of May. Within the library, Nylmani watched them work, and realized that it took less than half as long to build a bridge when there were workers on both sides of the river, building toward the center. With this in mind, she penned a treatise on the Principle of Invitation that in later years revolutionized theoretical magic. Within two years she had based a new teleportation spell upon this magic, by which two wizards arrange a time to cast their spells: one who is traveling, and one who has arrived.

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Week 5 Wrap-up

The end’s in sight!  Not much to report as we slide into our sixth and final week.  Most of our writers have paused to breathe and look over the work they’ve completed so far.  Mary continues to creep up on her final goal, while Brandes and Lucy having come within cussing distance of their halfway marks.

One big item: Merc has made (actually passed) her final goal!  That’s our third writer over the line.  Go Merc!

We’re still hoping for a few more days of work from Madeleine and Marjorie, ~1K words each from Brandes, Lucy, and Mary, and maybe new stories from Dan and Nathaniel, so keep sending encouraging brainwaves the Breathmoss way.

In the northern continent, which is called Balioth, there are some ninety men, and a roughly equal number of women, who comprise a kind of society. Like everyday society, this one exists solely to be a good reason for these men and women not to kill each other, as the cost of their open warfare would be too great to be permitted. They are, after all, wizards; and when we call them the Wise, we mean that their eyes are open (more than most) as to certain very ugly realities. The first of these is that the only people who truly understand them in the world are those who share their power, and thus can profit from their deaths. This is not a pleasant thing to realize about your only friends.

Because of ideas like “collateral damage” and “existential threat to all life on the continent,” the wizards do not fight one another with spells or weapons very often, and then only in certain ways. The first of these is dueling, which may take place only in prescribed areas, by prior arrangement; this is how murder is practiced by those with the proper combination of daring and social grace. The second of these is as an adjunct to conventional warfare; this is how murder is practiced when both sides have significant political allies, and those political allies can be induced to hate one another. This case requires that both sides have the consent of certain other wizards. If you are going to kill hundreds of people who have done nothing to you as a footnote to killing the one who has, it is (for obscure reasons) seen as important that the act have some legitimacy.

The third of these is by consent of the aforementioned other wizards, who have acted as judge and jury to the typically absent and unaware defendant. They permit the prosecuting wizard to become an executioner, to the best of her capacity. The important thing is that the verdict and the reasons for the ruling are shared with the whole community of the Wise, so that the defendant’s allies will understand his wrongdoing and stay out of the conflict. The alternative would be dreadful; outlaws with friends would be above justice, or the conflict would eventually expand to include all wizards. Obviously, this is how murder is practiced by those who can pay. The great thing about this method is that you can sometimes get other wizards who have high-minded ideals about justice to help you kill someone. The downside is that sometimes the judges hand down rulings other than guilt or sentences other than death. Is there anything worse than someone who doesn’t stay bought?
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Week 4 Wrap-up

A week of triumph … and tragedy.

Marjorie, unsatisfied with her prior stress levels, upped her writing time to a whopping four hours a day.  The increased commitment yielded fruit: she finished her story, a tale of good vs. evil in a mythical (and sometimes not so mythical) village.  (What’s next, Marjorie?  Revision?  A new draft?)  Brandes, after chasing a receding finishing line for many frustrating days, also arrived at those marvelous words, The End.  By the time he finished, his protagonist was beat to hell and barely sane; Brandes may well have felt the same way.

Madeleine made her hourly quota by web-footing, researching, and weaving together many scattered hand-written bits of a story.  Lucy had set a goal of not stressing, but actually stress may have helped her in the end: suffering from a bout of insomnia, she made her weekly word goal in one shot.

Merc, alas, got sick (that’s the tragedy part of this report).  No words for week four–she continues to hover tantalizingly near her goal.  Nathaniel’s working on a draft of his fourth story, and in the meantime, he continues to pump out the subs: 15 so far and counting.  And what do you know, it works!  (See previous post).

Dan and Mary, our two silent members, are still in the running, with Dan a third (or more) of the way to his goal and Mary over halfway there.


Story Acceptance!

One of our Breathmoss writers, Nathaniel K. Miller, has had a story accepted by Mad Science Journal (a new story that is; he’s been published there before).

Always remember, submitting stories is part of the process!

Week Three Wrap-up

It was a moderately slow week for the Breathmoss Team, but also a week of some significant achievements.  Three writers finished stories; two upped their goals; one lost a computer; one gained a family member.  And the writing, as always, ground on.

Two writers were traveling but made use of their few free moments.  Brandes jetted to New York for a wedding; he lost writing time but gained a cousin.  Fortunately he preceded the trip with one of his best days, powering through some tangled plot developments.  Lucy also suffered a slow week, what with travel and life and school; trapped in a car, she had to text herself novel notes.

Nathaniel drafted his third story, meeting his original goal.  He’s upped his quota to five full shorts.  In the meantime he’s littering the mails with leavings of his genius–ten current subs out and counting!

Merc’s laptop exploded, but she survived.  Thank god for Dropbox!  She finished the week with a marathon session and one hot toasty fresh new draft.  91 more words, a mere blip of inspiration, and this writer will have reached her goal!

Mary and Dan prefer to suffer in silence, so we can’t know what troubles, tribulations, and tribbles they’ve faced in the their battles with the proverbial empty page.  Evidence of their efforts abounds.  Mary’s word count continues to inch up, and Dan has a spanking new story to call his own.

Speaking of suffering, give a cheer for Madeleine.  Though she started the week feeling lousy and low in energy, she began the tiresome work of turning ink to bits–typing notebook jottings into her computer.  She finished an outline and scene and, as always, continued to write every weekday.

Marjorie’s another of our daily writers (as opposed to those who set word- or story-gauged goals).  One hour a day wasn’t enough for her–she upped her ration to four!

On the subject of daily sessions, we’ve had reports of some writers forgetting to press their “I Wrote Today” buttons.  So be warned: the official daily counts you see underrepresent their actual efforts!