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 šŸ™‚

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.

Writers Coffeehouse, May 2018

Another solid Coffeehouse. Scott Sigler returned for hosting duties, and he ran a tight ship, taking us from topic to topic while still giving everyone a chance to speak up.

Last hour or so of the Coffeehouse was just rapid-fire “what are your current issues?” questions for Scott, which he handled with honesty and poise.

Got some really good advice out of this one. Here are my notes:

invizium.com: writer trying to break into book trailers

J Dianne Dotson: BOOK OUT MAY 29th; worldwide distribution via ingram spark; book trailer is up; signing at Mysterious Galaxy in june

art vs business: are we artists or business people?

  • think in terms of ratings: numbers that are too small for big pubs are great for smaller ones
  • don’t chase trends
  • if you do what you like, consistently, you can find your audience

any place you can go where you can meet editors and agents is worth it

check twitter, #mswl, manuscript wish list, agents and editors tweet what they’re looking for

when is it ok to promote? don’t be afraid to ask, but be polite

polite persistence is the cornerstone of becoming a published author with a publishing house

how to follow up with editor or agent you meet in person? wait a week, email them, say how you met and what you talked about, short pitch, then wait a month and email again, repeat till you hear back

editing aids? dianne really likes the hemingway app, can just put your text in there and it’ll catch sentences that are too long, stuff like that, and it’s free; best to do scene by scene, look for trends you didn’t know were there

self pubbing is now the minor leagues; if you sell 5,000 or 10,000 copies, your next query letter is much much stronger

don’t wait; if you’ve written a book and no one wants to pick it up, self-publish it and move on to the next book

for your website, social media: pick your writing name, and grab that domain now, use it everywhere

also: grab every free email account with that handle, so no one else can

scott recommends the book “save the cat”, it’s about screenwriting, but has a few chapters about pitching that applies just as well to books

don’t shut down social media as political statement; just go fallow; online real estate is just as valuable as physical real estate

beta-readers: can be good for picking up basic reader questions (plot holes, likable characters, etc), but beware when they start commenting on your style

suggestion: test out beta readers with one chapter, before sending them the whole book

you all have your own writing style, you just have to get better at it

aln: local writer’s meetup group; totally free, they pick a subject out of a hat, 30 min writing, then critique

scott’s advice: if you’re in a slump, go write some fan fiction, get the brain turning and then come back

one writer recommends: rachel arron: 2k to 10k, she rereads that book whenever she gets into a slump, good advice on structure, etc

aon timeline syncs with scrivener now; can use it as timeline app and push to scrivener

scott color-codes the index cards for scenes in scrivener by pov character, lets him easily see who needs a scene

other writer: pantser, she writes an outline after the fact, uses it to guide her second draft

if you put up trailers on youtube, watch their viewing stats to see where people fall off watching to learn what to do better on the next one

try to keep trailer to 30 seconds, minute at the most

Keeping Score: April 20, 2018

Another blow out week! Wrote 2,519 words (whew!).

Most of them were for the new novel, but, like last week, one of the writing exercises I did turned into a short story I’m going to polish and try to sell. I also did a second draft of the short story from last week, which even though it only counted for half, still added ~400 words to my total.

I didn’t think I could work on multiple pieces at once, but so far it’s not been an issue. If anything, I find I come to the novel work with a more playful attitude, a willingness to experiment, that I didn’t have before. I don’t know if that’s translating into better writing, but I’m enjoying it more, so that’s something šŸ™‚

If I can sustain this pace, and I hope I can, I’ll need to up my weekly goal again. I don’t think I’ll leap all the way up to 2,000 words, though. Going up to 1,750 should be fine.

But let’s see if I can keep up this pace for another week, first.

Keeping Score: April 13, 2018

Blew through my writing goal this week: 2,431 words written.

Not all of them were for the new novel, though. I’ve been working my way through Ursula K LeGuin’s Steering the Craft, which has a set of writing exercises for each chapter. Yesterday’s exercise was supposed to be a 200-word snippet to play with different points of view. I was having so much fun writing it, though, that it’s become an 800-word (very) short story. I’m going to polish it up, and try to sell it. So I decided to count it in this week’s word count.

Novel itself has crept up to 16,000 words. I took some time earlier in the week to do some more outlining, which has helped, and also read Jim Butcher’s great piece on Writing the Middle, which was fantastic. It made me realize I was working toward his “Big Middle” technique, so I’ve decided to embrace it, and write with that in mind.

I also have to give thanks to the writers at the San Diego Writers Coffeehouse. Seeing everyone on Sunday recharged my batteries, and made me feel that I could finish what I’ve started. I’m not alone, and that’s a very, very, very good thing.

Writers Coffeehouse, April 2018

Another great coffeehouse! Jonathan Maberry was back for hosting duties, and kicked off two lively discussions on some recent controversies in the publishing world.

Thanks again to Mysterious Galaxy for giving us the space to meet, and to Jonathan, Henry, and the other organizers!

My Notes:

henry: finds trello is a great visual way to outline a novel, can use columns for chapters, drill in for details, etc

jonathan: no one can know everything, we all need to share so together we can find solutions to our problems

free files with sample query letters, etc are up on jonathan’s website! ready for download

discussion: diversity pushes for anthologies – what’s the right approach?

discussion: can you separate the writer from the writing? ex: lovecraft

sd writers and editors guild: henry giving talk there later this month

ralan.com: maberry’s favorite website to find markets for short stories; anthologies, etc

what’s reasonable for a developmental editor to charge?

āƒ depends on hourly or per word

āƒ seen $500 to $5,000

āƒ inexpensive but professional: $0.004 per word, developmental edit

āƒ $2,000 for 90,000-word novel: about the average for developmental and line by line

developmental vs line editor: development is high-level, looking at plot and characters, shape of the story; line editor is going line by line before final print

jim butcher has a great piece online about writing the middle

jonathan: we dismiss nonfiction writing, especially in the magazine market, but we shouldn’t; there’s always knowledge we have that other people don’t posses; even basics can be good articles, because most magazines on a topic are read by nonexperts; what sells currently in magazine context is a conversational style; pro rates: $2-$7 a word; magazines starting to be hungry again

breaking in? don’t have to be a writer to sell it, have to know the subject matter; one of his students sold an article on falling (ex: how to fall from a skateboard) to multiple markets, used it to help him work through college

write first? or pitch? jonathan: never write before you sell

everyone here has something they’re an expert in, that they probably don’t value because it’s old hat to them; “i’m just a secretary” phenomenon

basics are great: how to find a good divorce lawyer (or a web developer, sysadmin, etc)

jonathan: write an outline, pitch to multiple magazines at once (120), if make multiple sales, write different versions of the article for each magazine; get back issues, read online content to learn voice and approach; don’t have to do it that way, but even if going one at a time, be ready with their next market if get rejected

pay on publication? NOPE, always go for pay on acceptance

Keeping Score: April 6, 2018

Scraped by my word goal this week: 1,554 words, most of which were written in just two days (yesterday and today).

Had a hard time getting myself to write each day, and didn’t make it most days. I think it’s because I’m closing out the early chapters of the book, where I had things mapped out pretty well in advance. From here, I can see the ending I want to get to — the various plotlines I want to wrap up, the character arcs I need to complete — but I’m not sure how to get there. Large chunks of my current outline are just scene titles with TBD for description.

I need to spend some time outlining, getting the next steps mapped out. But I also need to keep pushing out my word count every day. I’m not sure how to reconcile that, other than to maybe take one day next week and just spend my writing time outlining, then catch up on the other days of the week.

We’ll see.

Keeping Score: March 30, 2018

Whew. Managed to scrape by my goal this week: 1,511 words.

Definitely not raising my weekly word count for a while.

It’s still helpful, though. Even when I’m taking time off from the day job, I make sure to sit down and get my daily word count out. Don’t want to be playing catch-up on the weekends šŸ™‚

Might shift my reward a bit this week. Instead of getting an album, I’m thinking of picking up a game. Discovered they ported Heroes of Might and Magic III (one of my favorite games from college, and now I’m dating myself) to iOS, and I’d like to check it out.

Till next week: good luck with your own writing! May we see each other on the shelves someday šŸ™‚

Keeping Score: March 23, 2018

I did it! Wrote 1,586 words this week, just enough to make my new goal šŸ™‚

Novel’s passed 10,000 words, and is still chugging along. So far, so good.

And this kind of pace feels good, too. Not too intense, but not so slow that I don’t feel like I’m making progress. And each week, I get a reward, a visible reminder of how much work I’ve done.

Many thanks once again to Scott Sigler, for hosting that Writers’ Coffeehouse weeks ago, and sharing his scoring system with us. It’s really helped me, and I’m grateful.

And now, to pick out some new music! Last week I grabbed Monster Magnet’s Powertrip, an old trippy-rock-meets-cthulhu album that I missed owning. This week I’m considering picking up something from The Stooges, another classic band I haven’t heard a full record from.

Keeping Score: March 16, 2018

Another week, another push. 1,265 words written this week, again just over goal.

I think it’s time to boost my numbers. Next week, I’ll shoot for one extra page, making it 1,500 words for the week. That’s still only 300 words a day, Mon-Fri. Should be doable.

Gotta earn my weekly music šŸ™‚

And if it’s not doable, well, then I’ve got my penalty waiting for me. Not that I ever want to experience it.

IĀ did end up picking the Black Panther soundtrack last week. I think it’s a little uneven, but still solid (unlike the movie, which I thought was great).

This week…who knows? Maybe time to pick up something I missed from last year.