Keeping Score: August 6, 2018

So: I didn’t make it to this month’s Writers Coffeehouse. Missed seeing everyone, and checking in on how their own writing is going.

But I did hit my new writing goal: 2,033 words this week!

Granted, I wrote most of them on the weekend, writing ~600 words each on Saturday and Sunday. But I tell myself that what matters is that the draft gets written, not when it happens. Progress is progress.

For the novel itself, I seem to have turned a corner in the writing. I’m framing each scene now as a contest between two more characters, and letting the thing spill out from them battling it out (not always with fists).

I don’t know if the writing is better necessarily (this is a first draft, after all), but it’s easier, which means I can relax a bit and have more fun with it.

I also keep getting ideas on how to improve the first novel I wrote, years ago. Once this draft is done, I might have to go back and re-work that older book, just to scratch that itch.

Keeping Score: July 30, 2018

Managed to write 1,784 words last week. I thought I’d get more done, with my wife out of town, and all those empty nights ahead of me, waiting to be filled with words.

But it turned out that with the construction still going on in our house, at the end of the work day I felt like nothing more than curling up on the couch with the pups and binging the last season of Portlandia.

Thankfully my wife’s coming home Tuesday (yay!) and with her here I should be able to get back to a regular writing schedule.

I also noticed I’ve hit my word goal for 6 weeks running now. Time to up the count again.

So I’ve upped it another page, to 2,000 words per week. That means I need to write 400 words a day during the week to hit the goal. Either that, or play catch-up every weekend, which…no thanks. I’d rather have my weekends free 🙂

We’ll see how it goes. I’ve still got that penalty hanging over me if I don’t make it, to push me along when I slow down. I haven’t had to face it yet; I hope I never do.

Alive by Scott Sigler

Intense.

The prose is stripped clean of excess, going down so smooth it injects the story right into your bloodstream. And hot damn, it’s a good one.

I haven’t read a lot of YA, but this is the first one I enjoyed, start to finish.

Three things I learned about writing:

  • First-person, step-by-step, can be brutal: by sitting right inside the character’s head, it’s easy to get sucked in, and then when the shit goes down, you feel every victory and defeat like they’re happening to you.
  • Every group has a jerk. Every group in fiction needs a jerk.
  • One way to handle writing a large group, where each person needs their own personality, is to write scenes in which the group rotates through different configurations. The numbers stay manageable, but the composition of the group in the scene changes, giving each member a chance to shine.

Keeping Score: July 6, 2018

1,761 words written this week.

Whew.

Really glad I went to the Writers Coffeehouse last Sunday. Between the holiday, my wife and I closing on our new house (!), and the struggles I was having with the current novel, I might not have gotten anything done this week. But the group gave me a great solution to my problem (to keep writing as if I’d made the changes to earlier scenes that I’m planning, but without stopping to make those changes right now), and inspired me to keep pushing through.

I feel a little freer to experiment with this draft, now. Like I can try something out to make things more interesting or dramatic, without worrying that it matches up exactly to what came before. I know it’ll create a mess of a draft for me to clean up in later edits, but at least I’ll finish it. Easier to see the shape of the story once I’ve written it.

Writers Coffeehouse, July 2018

Made it back to the Writer’s Coffeehouse this month. It was a smaller crowd than usual, but that just meant we had more time to go in-depth on everyone’s questions 🙂

My notes are below. Many thanks to Mysterious Galaxy for the space, and to Henry Herz for hosting!

  • publishers and writers of san diego: meet once a month in carlsbad about the business of self-publishing
  • henry: doing a triple-launch in october at mysterious galaxy
  • orange county children’s book festival is in october
  • san diego union tribune book festival is in august
  • san diego state univ writers conference is in january 2019
  • la jolla writers conference is in november
  • snowflake pro: really good software for building a book pitch
  • question: seeing problems with story in current first draft; go back and fixit now? or keep writing as-is?
    • answer: write it as if it’s fixed, but keep going; leave notes to go back and fix the earlier bits in later drafts
  • new market: future-sf.com
  • bootstrapping social media?
    • henry: when he was getting started, interviewed successful authors and posted them on his blog
    • whatever you do, try to find something that relates to writing and do that
  • a way to kick-start the conversation on social media: ask people for recommendations (taco places, procedural movies, etc)

Keeping Score: June 22, 2018

Made the new word-count goal for a second week, thank the gods: 2,478 words.

Again, most of those are short-story edits. I basically didn’t touch the current novel this week, which has turned out to be a good thing. I’ve had time to think through some of the problem areas, plot threads that weren’t quite matching up. When I do go back to working on that draft, I’ll have some revisions to make that’ll strengthen the story before I finish.

In the meantime, I’ve submitted one of the stories I revised last week. I’ve also got two more stories ready to submit after this week’s work, for a total of five.

Here’s hoping they all find good homes.

Keeping Score: June 8, 2018

Hit my word count again this week. This makes 12 weeks in a row. 12 weeks where I’ve written 1,500 words, whether I was at home, or on vacation, or sick, or hungover, or working overtime.

It’s time to up the ante.

I’m going up a page, and setting next week’s goal at 1,750 words.

It looks like a small raise, but it feels like a stretch. There’s been several weeks where I cleared 1,500 words by just a single word or two. Weeks where I had to write Saturday and Sunday to make my count.

But I’d like to do more. I’d like to start sending short stories out again. That means taking time to edit them, and upping my word count is one way to force me to do that.

I’ve also got three novels in draft form that I need to revise. If I’m going to clear that backlog, I’m going to have to knuckle down and start plowing through it.

So wish me luck! Or better yet, wish me energy and willpower. I’m going to need all three 🙂

Memorial Day, 2018

It’s Memorial Day here in the US, which means it’s supposed to be a day for us to remember and honor those who have fallen in the armed forces.

Both sides of my family have a tradition of serving in the military. My brother’s a Marine. So is my nephew. My uncle-in-law damaged his hearing while manning artillery in World War II. Several of my cousins have been in the Army, the Marines, the Air Force.

Thankfully, they’ve all come home. But that’s not true for every family, or even most families.

To me, the best way to honor those who have fallen is to treat our current veterans’ lives with respect. That means never going to war under false pretenses. It means choosing our allies carefully, so that we don’t need to hesitate about defending them when they are under attack. It means never rushing to war, and keeping our diplomatic corps as strong as our military, so we always have options.

Too often, I feel our leaders — of all political stripes — have failed to do this. It’s as if each one of them secretly wants another World War II, a “just” war they can use to drape themselves in glory. But that’s how we got Vietnam: a (Democratic) President lying to Congress and the American people about a war we didn’t need to fight. The Second Iraq War was more of the same, only under a Republican this time.

I understand foreign policy is not black-and-white. It’s a complicated, shifting thing, where today’s ally could be tomorrow’s foe. But we should never go to war without knowing why. We should never hurry to wage war when we don’t have to.

It’s the least our leaders can do for us, we who have to fight and die, we who have to wait and worry and pray for our brothers and sisters and wives and fathers to come home.

If you’ve lost family in war, my heart goes out to you. May you find some comfort this Memorial Day, and in all the days to come.

Keeping Score: May 21, 2018

Haven’t posted in a bit. We’ve been ramping up the search for a house this month, and between looking and inspecting and filling out paperwork, I haven’t had much room in my head for anything else.

I have kept up my writing, though. Having that deadline hanging over my head, and the punishment that would come with missing it, has pushed me to get things done. I’ve just made my word count every week, even if that meant writing half of them on Saturday in a mad rush to keep from missing the target.

Most of those words have been for the novel, though I’ve not dropped the short story. After getting some harsh (but accurate) feedback from a beta reader, I realized it needed a full rewrite. That’s almost complete, and I think the new version is much stronger. There may even be a novel lurking in there, in the background of that world.

Thankfully, that novel’s not too distracting…yet. What has been distracting is how my ideas for how best to write the novel keep changing, right in the middle of this first draft. I’m now curious to try my hand at writing more from a third-person omniscient point of view, which would be a complete change from the novel’s current POV. I’m also re-thinking character histories and motivations, which would be an abrupt change this far through.

I’m telling myself to write these ideas down, and come back to them later. Get the first draft done, get the story out there, and then use these ideas during the editing process, if they’re needed. Otherwise, I worry that if I keep changing course, I’ll never finish the book.