Keeping Score: August 20, 2018

Blew past the word count goal this week: 2,133 words written!

I realized yesterday that I’m almost at 40,000 words. Since I expect this novel to be brief (about 50K or so), at my current pace I’ll be done in about five weeks.

Five weeks!

Who knows if I’ll actually be finished at 50K, but it’s exciting to think about putting this first draft to rest. Feels like I’ve been working on this novel forever. It’s only been nine months, though, and it’ll be close to a year before I’m done.

Ok, not done exactly, but at least done with the first draft of it.

I’d like to get into a pace where I can finish (as in, draft, revise, stick a fork in it, ship it finished) a novel a year. I’m not quite there yet; if I finish this one by October, I’d only have a month to do all the edits it needs, which likely won’t be enough time.

It’d be better if I could revise one book while writing another. I haven’t been able to master that trick yet; the one book takes up so much head space for me that it’s all I can do to occasionally spit out a short story or two while I’m in the middle of the draft.

Maybe I could find a way to edit on weekends, and work on the new draft during the week? Or vice-versa?

Not sure what’s best. I just know once this draft is done I’ll have four novels that are finished drafts, but not finished pieces. And that’s starting to bug me. I need to be sending these out, trying to land an agent. But that’s hard to do when they’re not in any shape I want a professional to see them in.

Do you revise one book while writing another? How do you do it?

Keeping Score: August 13, 2018

Hit the new goal again this week: 2,016 words written.

Wrote almost 900 of those in a single day: Saturday. Not great to be writing on a weekend, I suppose, but better than having to write both days.

I’ve noticed I seem to need two days off writing, no matter what. Whether that’s Saturday and Sunday, or Monday and Tuesday, there’s always a gap somewhere in the week where I have to accept I won’t get any writing done.

I’m also apparently fairly sensitive to work stress when writing. If the week starts out hard, I’m likely as not going to be playing catch up on my writing over the weekend. Stress at work seems to soak up all the free space in my head, making me feel like I can’t think about anything else.

Not sure if that’s an unhealthy reaction or not. From one perspective: shouldn’t my writing be an escape from what’s going on around me? From another: how can I possibly devote energy and time to being creative when I’m worried about my livelihood?

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.

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 🙂

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