Catching People Up On What I’m Writing

I’ve been talking a bit about the new project I’m working on here and on Twitter the last couple of days, which has led to folks peppering me with questions about it. I’ve answered these questions before but I’m not opposed to grouping the answers together for your convenience, so here’s a quick, compact update.

Dude, what are you working on?

It’s a new project I can’t officially tell you about yet, which I have given the code name of The Spank Chronicles, Book One: The Spankening.

Is it part of the Old Man’s War/Android’s Dream/Fuzzy Nation/Shadow War of the Night Dragons universe?

What part of “I can’t tell you about it yet” is not coming through?


Sorry, you’ll have to wait until I can talk about it.

For how long?

Probably until some point this summer.

We hate you.

I know.

What did you just finish that you are so happy about?

There was a big thorny chunk of The Spank Chronicles that I managed to hack through and which I am very happy with now.

Can we see it?


Look, we’ll offer you this kitten in exchange! (holds up kitten)

I have three, thanks.

You mentioned you’re writing this on Google Docs. Why that choice?

Because my desktop computer had a meltdown and I’m writing primarily on a laptop for this project — but which laptop varies depending on which room I’m in and which one is available at the moment. Typically I use the Mac Air, but sometimes Athena or Krissy want to use it for whatever reason. In which case I use a different laptop. Using Google Docs means that I can pick up on what I’m writing regardless of which computer I’m using, and that’s actually pretty useful. Also as a word processor it’s now sufficiently advanced that for the (actually very simple) needs that I have, it works just fine. And finally, unless Google explodes, the document I’m writing won’t disappear into the ether if something happens to my computer (if Google explodes, we have bigger problems).

But now you can’t write without an online connection! You’re a slave to the man!

When I’m somewhere I can’t access the Internet (which, these days and considering I walk around with a wifi hotspot on my phone, isn’t all that often), I can still use Word or TextEdit (or Pages or LibreOffice or one of the several other word processors I have on my computer) and then paste into Google Docs later. In short: everything’s fine.

When is The Spank Chronicles going to be done? When can we see the completed Spank Chronicles?

It’ll be done when it’s done, but hopefully that will be be in the next few months. I can’t tell you when you can see it yet; that’s still being worked out.

But… you could release it on the InterWebs right now and we’d totally pay you for it! Do a Kickstarter!

Sorry. It’s contractually promised.

Hmph. Well, you should still do a Kickstarter one day.

Maybe one day.

It’s not too late to tell us what The Spank Chronicles is about.

Yes it is, we’re at the end of the entry.

Wait, no we’re n

44 Comments on “Catching People Up On What I’m Writing”

  1. That kitten you refused because you have enough (as if one can have enough!). Do you know what will happen to the kitty if you don’t tell us?! I We bet you can guess! The welfare of the itty bitty kitty is in your hands.

    *evil laughter ensues*

  2. We deleted the “I” above, we are sure of it, and we are extremely disappointed with the interweebs that it reappeared in the final comment.

    *evil pouting ensues*

  3. Come on folks, Redshirts isn’t even out yet. I’m sure John will lift the curtain and reveal the Spank Chronicles in due time. You know how much he likes to tease us.
    The code name might need work John. “Lift the curtain and reveal the Spank Chronicles,” is more than vaguely dirty.
    Now leave the man alone. He’s gonna show me, but not any of you.
    For anyone inclined to take that last line seriously. He’s not showing me. Why would he? We’ve never even met, outside of these threads. So this is just to let you know I was kidding about everything, except leave him alone.
    You don’t want to make him mad. He’ll just slow down if we all bug him too much.

  4. My son might correct me, but my vague recall is that a decade ago who had a joke elevator pitch about a serial killer janitor Horror Film called “The Sweepening.”

  5. My old PC was cold-shutting down 7 times per 5 hours, not a Windows glitch, but power supply or motherboard. My son’s 9 months overdue building the new PC with terabyte drive, and copying several thousand Word and PDF files from old to new. Delay was from a fecteive new motherboard, which the manufacturer gfinally believed when on the phone with my son, who did what they said to diagnose.

    So I’m wandering between Caltech Math department PCs when I can get a ride there (5 miles), and my wife’s Samsung laptop, with keys too small for my fingers, an annoying CAPS LOCK, and my depending on The Cloud — namely Word files I’ve emailed to co-authors and beta-test readers, GoogleDocs, web form entry to The On-Line Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences™ (OEIS™) and the like. So not able to meet my 2,000 word/day quota, and feeling guilty.

    I even wrote a 38-line RHYMED METERED POEM WITH PEN ON PAPER, WAITED FOR MY TURN TO USE HER LAPTOP, AND TYPED IT FIRST TIME DIRECTLY AS THE BODY OF a gmail.. Sorry. I’m not shouting. It’s that danged caps lock.

    The chapter that I wrote yesterday, #336 of ALZHEIMER’S WAR, had my asking her: “How do I get your system to tell me the wordcount?” Then tried to save it as a .doc file and it saved as a .docx file.

    [* Bill Clinton accent *] “Ah feel you’ pain….”

  6. Is it part of the Old Man’s War/Android’s Dream/Fuzzy Nation/Shadow War of the Night Dragons universe?
    What part of “I can’t tell you about it yet” is not coming through?

    Obviously, the best possible answer would have been “Yes, all of them”.

    Also, I would think it was obvious what part of “I can’t tell you about it yet” wasn’t coming through: the part where you didn’t give your interrogator what they needed

  7. Looking forward to The Spank Chronicles, Book 2: The Fappinator Strikes.

    Anybody else have any suggested titles for John’s awesome Spank series?

  8. JReynolds;
    How about,The Spank Chronicles: Return of the Rubber Hose.
    But, we’ll spiral off to the bad place if we delve much further in that direction.
    And John, speaking as someone who went to a school where the severity of offense dictated the width of the hose used to whup the offending ass, that is not as dirty as it sounds.

  9. I’ve given up on the idea of being caught up, John, unless you actually stop writing once you finish The Spank Chronicles and wait to write more until it comes out. Then we would be truly caught up, but of course none of us would really want you to do that.

    I use Google Docs for everything except for my fiction writing. I’m writing my novel in Scrivener (which I know you’ve said doesn’t fit your writing methods) and storing it on Dropbox so I can use different computers. I’m writing a short story which I hope to get published (we all need to have dreams, don’t we?). I’ve been writing it in a notebook with a good, old-fashioned pen for true portability, but I just got Pages for my iPad, and I think I’ll transcribe what I have into it so I can write on-the-go and still be able to export it to a computer when I’m done. I was unsure if typing on the iPad’s screen would be doable, but I did a test and was able to type a 250 word page in about 12 minutes, I think it’ll do. I just wish Scrivener was available for the iPad.

  10. No matter what an email you might receive from a certain person says, know that when it comes to ‘The Spank Chronicles’, his mouth is writing checks his wife won’t cash. Just sayin. ;P

  11. I know some people over at; you HAVE to do a San Francisco reading during the Spankination book tour, and I can’t think of a better location than the former National Guard Armory now headquarters and er um well…

    We can even hold the reading in the Burning Man Battledome, it’s stored at overwinter…

  12. Dave Branson, ditto on Scrivener and Dropbox for my novel, but I also write with MS Word and Dropbox (sometimes that just works better for me than working in Scrivener–it depends on the moment and my mood). Haven’t tried Google Docs, partly because I deleted my Google account, but mostly because I must use Word for my regular employment for various reasons, so I see no reason to use another word processor for other writing. I keep the Word documents (both paid employment and as-yet-unpaid fiction writing) in Dropbox folders, and they’re available wherever I take my laptop as well as on my desktop computers. Like Google Docs but without Google–what’s not to like? I have Dropbox on my iPod Touch, so I’m assuming there’s a version for iPad. Might Pages save into Dropbox? I know Plain Text does on the iPod Touch. I’ve also got a shared Dropbox folder so my best friend/writing critic has easy access to drafts in progress that I want her to see.

  13. It’s pretty obvious that he’s being commissioned to novelize the DeathSpank games.

  14. Xopher Halftongue, I apologize for sounding defensive here, but I am trying, with imperfect equipment, to be on-topic.

    John Scalzi is the established wonderful author, and SFWA officer. But I have actually been writing professionally published science fiction longer, have more total publications (over 4,200) , and much longer software experience (since 1966). Hence my expressing sympathy for his situation gives two valid data on the transition that writers are experiencing in trying to continue daily novel-writing when one’s own PC is unavailable. The technology of PCs and word processors came into being AFTER some SFWA members were already published, became arcane and difficult, became easier, and now is becoming cloud-based and transportable, with some fudging. It shall also become easier. The market shall determine the mix of two futures: your personal computing device is as personal as your toothbrush, and cannot be used by someone who steals it; versus it doesn’t matter what device you use, as the writing/internet process is seamless independent of where the software resides.

  15. I thought you were working on the Graphic Novel of TSWOTND. Was that not right? I mean, I know it was on April 1st, but that was just to throw us off wasn’t it.

  16. JvP
    After reading your posts here I’ve tried in vain to find any of your published fiction. Just idle curiosity but can you point me in the right direction?
    (Hope this doesn’t count as a highjack John.)

  17. Every time you refuse to answer a fan’s question, an angel loses its wings.

    I don’t make the rules, I’m just letting you know….

  18. cartophilus asked a fair question. I answer nearly as briefly as possible, to promote non-hijacking.

    In 2011, I sold 5 short works of fiction including:
    * “Sumeria to the Stars”, Dark Tales of Lost Civilizations anthology;
    * “Semi-Satyr”, 2Anthology: Songs of the Satyrs;
    * “Zig-Zag Strikes Again”, Flash Fiction Online.

    I may also be found in Amazing Stories, Analog, one Nebula Awards Anthology, and other venues.

    A quite old and incomplete summary was:

  19. @BW

    Sadly, Pages for iOS doesn’t work directly with dropbox. There’s a workaround using DropDAV, but I haven’t gotten it working. There a tree some apps for iOS that are supposed to integrate with scrivener using dropbox, but only with the Mac version of scrivener, and I use the Linux and PC versions.

  20. Interested that you are using Docs. I use it daily at work and love it. I also wrote my unsuccessful NanoWrimo attempt the other year using docs. It worked great even once I passed 30,000 words.

  21. I’m doing short stories on Google docs now. I like it better than when I first attempted it a few years ago. Haven’t tried a novel on that yet. I suppose my Richard Bachmann will try the scifi novel on it later this year. (Yes, my Dick is going to write a novel.)

  22. My old Mac Minni is starting to have issues. It’s a G series running OS 10.4.11. (When they add the eleven it’s a hint to upgrade but at this point that’s a whole new computer that this unemployed writer can’t afford right now) so all the important docs have been moved to the external harddrive or to dropbox. I’d use google docs but i’ve really frown to live Scrivener. Well worth the minor inconvienence of converting a manuscript in progress and learning the ins and outs. editing and keeping track of scenes is now a breeze.

  23. If you use Chrome, google docs has a real nifty offline mode. It’s officially still beta, but works very well.

    It’s what I am using when I flee my noisy neighboors and go into a coffeeshop.

  24. I tried their offline mode when it was using Google Gears but was not hugely impressed with it. Perhaps it’s gotten better since then.

  25. Perhaps you’ll at least tell us the safe word you’re using for The Spankening… that won’t give away anything, will it?

  26. Every time you ask John when The Spankening will be released, a redshirt DIES! *ominous distant thunder* Er … I guess that’ll work about about as well as asking George R. R. Martin about the release date for his next book.

    I’m going to guess that The Spank Chronicles, Book One: The Spankening is the long-awaited prequel to The Shadow War of the Night Dragons trilogy. [We can hope, right?]

  27. Of course, you’re making offline backups, right? Google isn’t going to explode but keep in mind if they lose your data due to a hardware issue or glitch they have no obligation to try to to retreive it. And we’d hate for our Spankening to be late.

  28. You sir, have my admiration for maintaining not only your cool, but your sense of humor in the face of such an onslaught of internetality. (internetality, adj. – predictable, mundane, annoying, mildly stupid. characteristic of most user-generated material in internet social media.)
    My internetness for the day is another title suggestion: The Spank Chronicles IV – The God-Emperor of Spank

  29. John, how technical are you and how secure is your home network? I perked up my ears a little when I heard your descriptions about what kinds of wireless you’re using at home and the fact that you’re putting potentially valuable and interesting data on the intrawebz. I was half tempted to make a quick trip up to Bradford to do a little probing–and I’m an honest guy who managed to talk himself out of doing that. If you’re not comfy about how secure your wireless is, I’d be happy to point you at some resources. Anyhow, I just wanted to give you a heads up that you’re advertising things that might lead some of your flock to give into temptation and do things they shouldn’t.

  30. I like using google docs, but my biggest grip is that it’s really hard to see the highlighted/selected text for copying and pasting or just plain editing. Having the ability to change the color of the text selection highlighting should be an easy solution, but it’s not available. The only work-around I’ve found is changing the color of the page to a slightly darker white.

  31. When John announces what he’s working on, I’ll bet it will be spanktacular.

  32. Eric:

    Seriously, dude, are you expecting me to answer your question with anything other than “I’m highly technical and my network is secure”? Even if it weren’t true?

  33. Well, no, not publicly! Heh… where are your servers, and can we come and count them?

  34. Have you tried Dropbox or Syncplicity? I work across three computers for grad school and would have gone crazy if it hadn’t been for Dropbox (Excel files with stat plugins don’t play well on Google Docs.) I’m aware your needs are met by Gdocs but was wondering if you had any experience.

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