Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Missed the Mark!

Well, this past week I did not make ANY progress on my new novel! I will save the weekly update for next week! I think that's the first time in the months since I started setting specific weekly goals that I didn't get anything accomplished. I'll allow it. I had some significant other things going on in the past week that really demanded my full attention front and center, mentally and emotionally, and there was a significant temporary change to my schedule that also screwed with my body clock, so I wasn't quite feeling the way I usually do.

I'll just overlook this one "hiccup" in the progress and bravely resume the effort during this week.

I did manage to update the TIPS & TRICKS blog and also to edit and restore earlier postings on the WELCOME TO MY WORLD blog. At least I did accomplish something, even if those items are not as important as continuing to make progress on my writing. I can see where other writers comment that it's important to write, to write something, anything, just to keep writing. It keeps the wheels in motion. Not writing anything at all would make it much harder to start writing again after a break from it.

So, I'll renew last week's goals of adding two additional chapters and continuing to look for ways to make the difficult aspects of this new novel easier to deal with. I'll spend some time reflecting on the overall story and my purpose for it, and trying to put the challenging story events and heavy undercurrents into a fresh perspective in light of the overall intention for the work. I think I can make some headway there with a renewed effort.

I know I haven't posted anything at all concerning what this new story is actually ABOUT. I was going to post a back-cover blurb, as I did for THE REFLECTING STONE, but have decided to hold off on that for the time being. I am not sure whether the story will mutate on me in some way, and I'm still waiting to see where exactly I'll come down on it in terms of perspective. I have it fully in mind, planned out, but there is much that can happen in the writing to change the focus, if I allow it. It's quite a fascinating story and for all the planning I very much feel this is one where I have to get out of the way and let my subconscious do its work.

I am reminded of the following quote, which another writer used in his or her signature line in online forums:

"Your intuition knows what it wants to write, so get out of the way."
-- Ray Bradbury


Sunday, June 18, 2006


CURRENT GOAL: Complete Chapters 4 & 5
STATUS: Mission Accomplished!

Current Word Count: 14,370.


Blogger was having technical difficulties last week which made it impossible to post the usual tables. However, it appears this feature is working again now, so hopefully the tables for this week will appear following these comments.

I edited all previous material on the current novel (HARRY VS. THE TRUCK) and met the goal of adding two additional chapters. I am updating my Master Scene List as I go, and am also keeping notes for additional ideas I am having already for the editing phase for this novel, scenes to add that I didn't think of until after I had passed where they would go. So, I'm organized, keeping organizational overhead to a minimum, keeping the focus on following the basic outline yet also discovering the story as I go, and seeing lots and lots of possibilities for this novel to turn out to be something very meaningful.

However, it remains difficult to write, in that it deals with some heavy issues, and I'm not happy about that. A lot of my story ideas over the past decade plus have dealt with heavy issues, and in part the weight of these issues has bogged down the writing. I am making progress with this novel, and with my new process, which I tried out for the first time with my last novel, THE REFLECTING STONE, I am confident I can actually finish this novel. However, getting there is trying and I don't enjoy the heavy issues. I still have to keep my sights on the larger picture, and the ending, and know that going through this is worthwhile because it will end in a good way, but it doesn't really alleviate the discomfort of dealing with the heavy issues along the way. It just helps me remember there is a point to doing it. There have been some times in writing when I gain a fairly positive outlook on the work and feel good while writing, and the tone of the prose has been developing nicely toward a more lighthearted approach, which I intended from the outset. So, there are signs that I am making progress and maybe eventually I will have it down well enough that I can write without too much discomfort.

Regarding THE REFLECTING STONE, I finished the Master Scene List for that novel and now have only one task left before I can declare Phase One of the editing of it complete: I have to revisit the Mythology and figure out how to simplify it somewhat. I want to consolidate the various Ages of that world (it's a fantasy novel). Somehow I want it to be easier to follow, even though it's not all that complicated, but still it should be very simple for purposes of the story.

I have also been at work on a couple of postings for my new TIPS & TRICKS blog, which is still getting off the ground. I hope to post them sometime this coming week.

In conclusion, and returning to HARRY VS. THE TRUCK, my new goals will be to write two more chapters. It is definitely harder these days to keep the progress going because it's summer and there are other things to do these days. The tables below summarize how far the work has come already.


Sunday, June 11, 2006


Complete Chapters 2 & 3 of New Novel.

Mission Accomplished!

8,492 Words.

11.79% if max word count is 72,000.


It was hard to find time to write this week. The change in weather will be an obstacle. It's summer now, if not yet officially. There are more things to do and a different rhythm to things. Still, I didn't blow it off but got down to work when I could and did meet my minimum goal of two chapters.

This new novel is beginning to take shape after three chapters and over 8,000 words. I found a few surprises already, including significant new characters that cropped up to provide the main character with more opportunities to interact. They were intended to be minor characters whose parts were confined within the chapters where they occur, but they turned out to be very interesting and colorful and added a lot to the story. I wouldn't be surprised if two of these characters don't show up again later in the story. I sense intuition at work here, an awareness there are some things that could be dramatized and drawn out through their participation.

Also, for the first time I found myself weaving in some discussion of issues that I care about but which are not directly in the line of the plot. They are relevant, very much so, but not anchored to the main plot. I have always wanted to weave in such things, social issues, comments on life or whatever, and finally I'm finding that flow is there. The more I write, the more I find I can actually express. Sometimes it feels there is a lot inside I just can't get down on the page no matter how hard I try. I'm finding more of that is getting down on the page now and that feels great. These things are not the direct plot line issues, which I have no problem dealing with head-on. They are ancillary comments that draw out the larger themes embraced by the story and add depth and perspective. They make the overall story richer.

I reported in the last posting that I consolidated two chapters in writing Chapter 2 (it contains what would have been Chapters 2 & 3 according to my original outline). The same thing happened again with Chapter 3: it covers what would have been Chapters 4 & 5. Consolidation is a type of shortening, but the chapter lengths are a bit longer than I intended, so I'm not so far off from where I thought I would be in terms of word count. It's basically an organization issue, wanting to keep a flow and make better use of the goal / complication / resolution paradigm. As written there is more pull and more punch and that's what I want. I have no fear of running short. There is plenty of story to tell. This just saves more room for later when I get to the really good stuff. Also, this consolidation means I will enter ACT TWO at a slightly different point in the story than I had thought I would. That's fine. It's a better breaking point with this new focus. So, I have a plan and I'm also flexible, keeping the larger picture and major events in mind.

There is one concern, which is that some of what this novel deals with is pretty heavy stuff. I find it hard to write about things that are emotionally charged and negative, but sometimes that must be. I am an optimist and want to keep it positive. I don't want to write negative things that would discourage people, but positive things that give people hope and suggest ways to overcome challenges. To do that, though, I sometimes have to wade through the "dark side". I brace myself for it and keep a perspective on the larger novel, remembering how things will turn out in the end. That helps me to keep working through the difficult material. By the way, this is not a tragic or depressing story, even if a couple of issues it inevitably raises are quite heavy. It is a story that can be expressed in a lighter vein, and that is what I am attempting, while also recognizing the seriousness of some of what it touches on.

I also have gained more courage to face the challenge of the first draft. I am more willing to accept it with all its imperfections, knowing that it is only a step along the way, and that I have to get something down in order to see what all I have to work with, and then I can change things as necessary to amplify the best stuff and remove what doesn't work. I have felt some disdain, "here I go again", remembering the long haul to get through the last draft for my other novel completed a few weeks ago. It's almost painful to think of all that work ahead again for this new novel, but it's going quickly. I'm already about 12% done and I've only sat down to write on three occasions, since time has been limited. I'm producing about half the output I want to. I hope that will increase soon.

Complete Chapters 4 & 5.

None -- although each chapter should be around 2,000 words.


Tuesday, June 06, 2006

HARRY: Chapter 2 Done

Finished chapter 2 of HARRY VS. THE TRUCK. Total word count now 5,712 words. I moved a chunk from the end of chapter 1 and used it to start chapter 2, creating a better breaking point between the two chapters. While composing new material, it turns out I consolidated chapters 2 and 3 and covered both goals within the one chapter. It's clear I won't be following my outline exactly, although I am following the storyline it contains. That's okay. I'm blending planning with discovery to achieve a healthy balance. Even though I'm now short a chapter, the total word count is still on track because the first chapter was longer and the second chapter was not short either.

The sense of goals and what the main character learns is certainly helping. I have a very clear sense of goal/complication/resolution at this point.

The work goes on.


Sunday, June 04, 2006


It's official -- I've begun the writing phase of HARRY VS. THE TRUCK!

This past week I reviewed my notes and answered the last remaining plot questions that came to light when I created the detailed chapter descriptions. There were a few critical issues that needed addressing, and I knew I couldn't write very much until I solved them. I found answers that I'm very happy with and feel are solid and will work well.

I also created a few new tables to help with drawing out the internal and external motivations, goals and conflicts and what the main character learns over the course of the story. As noted in my last posting, this was the area I wanted to target as I seek to improve my skills, and I definitely feel I have learned and put into use important concepts that will make a noticeable difference as I write this novel.

At this point, I have completed the first chapter out of a projected 37 chapters (see chart below). The word count for chapter one is 3,881 words.

I also wrote the ending of the final chapter, another 394 words. This was fun to do and I did it easily, since the ending is very specific and I have a clear sense of it. I feel good going into the writing knowing exactly how I want the story to end although I will, of course, change the ending as needed when I get there if a better idea comes along.

Regarding weekly goals and progress reports:

I will resume making weekly progress reports, usually on Sundays, sharing how much work I was able to complete since the last progress report. As for weekly writing goals, I have decided not to use word counts as a goal, but to focus on how many chapters I can complete in a week, regardless of their individual word counts. My focus on word counts when writing my last novel was helpful to me, but I no longer doubt I can churn out words on a weekly basis. The real issue is how many chapters, since they are the units I am working with. There will be 37 in all, acording to my initial plan. I want the novel to come in around 60,000 to 72,000 words total. That means I want shorter chapters, ranging from 1,600 to 3,000 words, typically around 2,000 words. In comparison, in my last novel the chapters ran around 10,000 words. I want chapters to focus primarily on one master scene each, although a short scene at the beginning or end may be appropriate in some cases. I have two scenes in the first chapter, the line break showing the passage of a few uneventful hours in what is otherwise a continuous scene.

As for how many chapters I will try to write each week, I will set a minimum goal of two to start with. I anticipate raising that in a week or two as the writing gets underway. Ideally, I'd like to write a chapter a day, since they are shorter this time around. Maybe 5 a week. At 2,000 words each that would match my earlier word count goal of 10,000 words a week. However, I will have to see how much time I have available and how consistent I am able to be. It's more fun to exceed a goal than to feel you can never reach one, so setting a reasonable target is wise. Two chapters a week should not be difficult to manage and leaves me room to exceed it when time permits.

Regarding the editing on THE REFLECTING STONE, I will continue to work on that as I write HARRY VS. THE TRUCK. I have enjoyed the past couple of weeks in which my writing-related workload was lighter. I needed a break after the long haul since October, but now I'm ready to dive in with a new draft. I'm eager to get another completed draft under my belt, strengthening my confidence that I can get things done. The editing of the THE REFLECTING STONE is still a priority, but I am placing it second to the new draft for now. This break will allow me to be more objective when I do start work on it in earnest in the coming weeks. If nothing else, I feel I can finish the draft of HARRY VS. THE TRUCK in 4-6 weeks, and will then devote my attention full-time to finishing up THE REFLECTING STONE. Also, during the coming month I will begin researching publishers and agents that might have an interest in THE REFLECTING STONE so that I will be ready to write query letters as I do the final polish on that manuscript.

Check back for my weekly progress reports, usually posted on Sundays, and other updates during the week as time permits!

Off and running and happy to be back in writing mode!



*But each chapter should run 1600-3000 words.