Sunday, April 30, 2006
CURRENT GOAL: COMPLETE CHAPTER 9.
STATUS: MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!!!
Current Total Word Count: 91,000+
Status: On Target!
NEW GOAL: COMPLETE CHAPTER 10.
DUE DATE: SUNDAY, MAY 7, 2006.
[Note: CURRENT PROGRESS updated weekly, usually on Sundays.]
Well, stayed up all night again, two nights in a row, and completed this week's work of touching up Chapter 7, editing Chapter 8, and writing Chapter 9 from scratch. I really "got into it" with Chapter 9, enjoying experiencing the story as it unfolded, remembering to capture the moment and dramatize it, bring it to life, with no effort to be in a hurry about it, just going along for the ride. It was quite a ride. Chapter 8 was also quite a ride, by far the biggest so far, but Chapter 9 was also full of surprises and some heartwarming interactions as well as ongoing action, keeping things moving, as some of the earlier chapters were. There for a while there was a lot of thinking and talking, because that's what the story called for, but it's good to be back to more action, which is actually easier to write.
It's early Sunday morning and I'm going to go to sleep for a good long while. I don't know whether I'lll have time to begin Chapter 10 still tonight or not.
Oh, I did have to revise my Chapter Completion Timeline, skipping a week since I was on vacation and didn't do anything much that week. So, with my current progress, I should finish the complete draft within 3 weeks. Of course, the closer I get to the end, the more and more I want to keep at it until it's done, so with any luck I'll finish it even sooner than that. Definitely within May, which was my original deadline (May 31st).
What a thrill it is!
I've never gotten this far before! I have now COMPLETED ACT II. Wow! I have done the impossible, or so it seemed -- bridged the middle! And crossed the 90,000 mark! What a good weekend this has been for writing! Glad I stuck to it and didn't let other things interfere.
Now, to go make up with all the people I've pissed off by neglecting them this weekend....
I finished the last scene of Chapter 8, and am now in the third scene of Chapter 9. There are some shorter scenes at the start of this chapter, so I'm only about 2000 words in at this point.
I'm seeing many more details for the scenes in the remaining chapters. I have definitely turned that corner now and am coming into the home stretch (the final chapters of the novel), although this is still a large chunk of work in its own right.
Some of my transitions are spotty and I'll fix that in the editing after the draft is complete. By this I mean some scenes may be a little short, or a small scene or two might be missing here or there that I haven't figured out yet that I need. The story flows just fine as it is, but I feel the distribution is a little uneven. It could also simply be that the pacing is different in this part of the story and the chapters are beginning to have more and shorter scenes, and to be shorter overall, consistent with building momentum toward a climax. The scenes were shorter in the beginning, too, then have been typically between 2,000 and 5,000 words throughout the middle, but now they're shorter again. It's just that things are moving forward at certain moments, building urgency and all that. So, I shouldn't worry unnecessarily, but I do suspect additional reflection will help me draw out some deeper elements of character develoment that I am still missing at this point, even though I'm focusing on that as much as I can as I write since that is what is ultimately driving the story (character).
I'm still working...It's going on 2 am and I'm still working...may work all night again. Want to finish this Chapter 9 tonight if possible! Or at least by Sunday evening.
Saturday, April 29, 2006
I worked through the night, editing Chapter 7 and Chapter 8. They're now all done, except I need to write one final scene for Chapter 8. I'll finish that on Saturday without much problem.
My outline got a little tweaking, too, overnight, and it's really solid now for the final chapters. I pretty much know exactly what I want to have happen throughout the remainder of the story, every scene of every chapter, although I'll still "discover" things as I go along, and details can change as convenient.
I still hope to finish Chapter 9 this weekend, after wrapping up Chapter 8 later today. I'm going to get some sleep now, though. I haven't written anything on Chapter 9 yet, so that will be a whole chapter to do, but it's possible if I can keep my focus on writing. I fear other things will interrupt at some point, but for the time being I'm keeing my focus on the writing!
I reworked the outline and have spent the past few days rereading the earlier chapters, which I haven't read for several weeks, looking for any issues I set up with the intention of resolving them in the later chapters. I've also taken more time to reflect on the ending and these final chapters.
I'm now turning the corner, entering into the last part of the story. This is now the farthest that I've gotten with a novel and it feels like I'm stepping onto sacred ground or something. I'm thrilled to have gotten this far and look forward to the moment when the complete draft is finished, sometime within May.
Thanks to those who have posted comments recently! I really appreciate them. Your words of support, encouragement and guidance help keep me on track, and help me keep up the motivation to finish what has turned out to be an enormous undertaking.
I want to answer the question posed about my "writing career" but the complete answer it a little long for now. Let me just say that I am not a published writer but an aspiring writer who has been trying for over a decade to write a novel. During that time I've actually worked on several different novels. I've put in a lot of effort, written hundreds of thousands of words, at least a half a million (my current novel will entail at least a quarter million additional words, likely more, before it is finished, including drafts and notes). However, I kept running into a dead end and never managed to finish any of the novels. I figured out the problem was with plotting, and with managing the process of writing. I developed a new approach over the past year and put it into action with my current novel, THE REFLECTING STONE. See my earlier postings for details on how that work has progressed. Suffice it to say I am now succeeding where I failed before, and if I continue as I have been working since October, this novel will be finished by summer and I will start shopping it around then! I'll also set to work immediately on my next novel, and then the next one, and then the next one.... I've got a list of fourteen additional novels to write after I complete THE REFLECTING STONE, novels I've worked on to varying degrees over the past decade plus. One thing is certain: I have found my voice as a writer, and a vision of what my work should embody. I've just been needing to figure out how to finish a novel, and that seems to have finally happened!
I guess I just needed to let it all soak in, and now it's finally making sense! It reminds me of the way I learned to type. When I took a class in typing I was not very good at it (24 wpm max). Over the next few years, by osmosis, typing a page or two here or there, it all sank in, and one day I discovered I was typing 86 wpm! Now I type over 100 wpm effortlessly, with peaks of 115 wpm and higher. Learning to write a novel is far more complicated, so it took longer, and I certainly worked hard at it, reading dozens of books, scores of articles on writing, taking writing courses, participating in writing groups, but now it's all coming together and I'm very pleased with my progress these past seven months.
I wanted to share a sample, a short story, so people can see what my prose looks like, so I came up with the idea of "THE 12-STEP CHALLENGE" -- write a short story in 12 steps using exactly 1200 words! Click on the link in the sidebar to read my story, and learn more about the challenge! I'll consider posting a few excerpts from the novel, but it's hard to choose from the 82,000 pages already written.
The remainder of this weekend I'm finishing up my planning then diving into the writing. I'll tweak Chapter 7 slightly to draw out the main character's goal (it's already there, just want to tie it all together more closely and make it a little more explicit), rewrite Chapter 8 to better dramatize and also take out some of the action I had put in there, then write Chapter 9 to complete that action and bring Act II B to a close. I plan to spend a LOT of time writing this weekend to catch up after my vacation!
Monday, April 24, 2006
Due to the sudden inspiration that overtook me in Chapter 8, I am taking a short time to rework the outline for the remaining chapters. I like this new direction and want to make it work. Based on it, I wrote the final chapter today (Chapter 12), albeit in very short, condensed form. I'll reflect on it, and may well keep the gist of it. It's a good ending, I think, after having considered several others over time. I have also made a preliminary list of scenes for the intervening chapters (how to bridge between Chapter 8 and Chapter 12), basically following the same idea I had before for Act III (Ch. 10, 11, 12) but with some significant new twists. The major question is whether I need to redistribute some of the action in Chapter 8, reworking Act II B (Ch. 7, 8, 9) so that the action flows better through those three chapters.
I hope to finish this work this evening, and also get back into the writing tonight as well. But, before I return to writing, I have make sure I know what it is I'm trying to write, and this has changed somewhat due to the new developments in Chapter 8.
Yesterday I worked on an outline for another novel that I've worked on for some years, a story that is near and dear to my heart. I had previously written and polished about 30,000 words of it, but have never managed to finish it, partly because of plotting issues I have (and which I've been overcoming as I work on my current novel). I managed to use my new table to work out goals / complications / resolutions for 36 chapters, an expanded version of my current way of outlining three acts distributed over 12 chapters. It worked well. I like what I can do now with plotting and will apply what I've been practicing as I continue reworking my current outline this evening. I'm thinking of setting up a web site for FTP downloads to share my tables with anyone who might care to use them. They're sure helping me.
Sunday, April 23, 2006
No new progress this week since I was on vacation. I had a wonderful trip, and did think about the novel from time to time, but then put it out of my mind altogether, along with all the other parts of my normal routine, in order to enjoy some "away time", which helped me recharge/refresh. I feel so much more relaxed right now! This feeling will last only a day or two, probably, then I'll be back into the thick of things, but at least I'll have the lasting, fond memories....
And being refreshed means I'm now eager to get back into the novel and make up for lost time! I have a plan of attack, a goal (Chapter 9 by the end of the week if not sooner), and the energy to dive in!
Best wishes to everyone else out there who is working on a novel!
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
Recent Goal: Chapter 8
Present Progress: Chapter 8 --> GOAL REACHED!
Word count for Chapter 8 is low, only 6552, instead of 10,000. It is a rough first draft, but when I rewrite later and flesh it out, it will "fill out" nicely. I wrote rather condensed and progressed too quickly, on a rush of new ideas, and did not draw out the description and dramatization as much as I need to, but that's what rewrites and editing are for. Significant new plot advances came up by inspiration and allow tie-in to existing outline, satisfying its requirements on a core level while radically altering some of the planning I had done for scenes. Result is much more exciting than what I had planned, and it connects with larger plot arcs and will make for a fascinating reversal in Act III. So, I deviated from the plan, but the results are worth keeping, even though I now face substantial editing later for this material in Chapter 8, but I'm not worried about it. It's very visual and exciting. I won't stop now for it but will move on!
New Goal: Chapter 9
Deadline: Sunday, April 23
Friday, April 14, 2006
I'm still in the middle of Chapter 8 but I did have a good night of writing on Thursday, and crossed the 80,000-word mark! That's TERRIFIC!!! The farthest I've ever gotten before on a novel, in over a decade of working at it, is about 30,000 words, although some of them have been really awesome words, but never enough to finish! My growth this past year in PLOTTING a novel has done wonders for me!
I have an upcoming vacation and many other things going on this weekend and coming week, so it'll be hard, but I'm really going to do my best to keep on schedule. I have until Sunday evening to finish the other half of Chapter 8, about another 5,000 words....
Thursday, April 13, 2006
My current weekly goal is to complete Chapter 8 of my current novel, THE REFLECTING STONE, by Sunday evening. However, I've been dealing with interruptions lately. Even when I have blocks of time for writing new material, I get enough interruptions that I lose my focus/concentration and end up just rereading what I recently wrote, making slight enhancements, trying to "get into it" so I can add to the story. I spin my wheels, never quite getting there. It's not productive.
Seeing this situation developing again on Wednesday, I got smart and didn't even try to work on my current novel. Instead, I brainstormed details for another novel, OCCUPANT, based on an idea I've had for several years now. It turns out I can do this type of work even with some interruptions. I like the new ideas. They add a lot to the basic premise I already had. (Sorry, I won't share any details until after I complete THE REFLECTING STONE! Part of the discipline of keeping myself on one major project until it is completed!)
I was impressed with the quality and quantity of the output. Using a twelve-step, three-act outline as a guide (the same framework I used in outlining THE REFLECTING STONE), I made connections between different parts of the story, developed several meaningful subplots, and arranged scenes in a sequence that introduces the characters and situation then raises questions, building suspense over time. The story is focused and intriguing, with characters that are three-dimensional and believable.
I also found a way to adapt my existing table for plot outlining to create shorter chapters. In THE REFLECTING STONE, the chapters currently run about 10,000 words each. I want to keep them to 1,000 to 3,000, typically around 2,000, in the future!
I completed the twelve-step plot, wrote several pages of notes drawing out the characters and various key scenes, then reworked all of it into a revised scene-level outline for the first Act. It'll take several more hours to complete the revision and scene details for the remaining Acts, but I'll keep this on a side burner until it's finished. The material for the Act I is already detailed and solid enough I could begin writing it, but I don't want to start writing anything else until after my current novel is finished. I am comfortable working on several things at once, but I want to make sure THE REFLECTING STONE is finished and ready to shop around by summer.
So, keeping up the effort, finding some way to be productive, but not yet done with Chapter 8! I'll probably have to play catch up this weekend, the way I did last weekend. That's okay, as long as it's done by Sunday evening, which I'm using as my weekly deadline. I want to complete a chapter a week until the remaining chapters are done, then I can do the editing. I think THE REFLECTING STONE is far enough along now and what I have is solid enough at this point that I no longer need to do significant editing every 2-3 chapters.
Monday, April 10, 2006
I wanted to thank those who take the time to visit my blog and write a comment! Your words of encouragement are very helpful. Writing a novel is a very challenging task, also a very solitary one. It takes many hours over many months, a considerable, sustained effort. It's fun, at times exhilerating, but at other times frustrating, aggravating, mind-boggling. Your comments help keep me on track!
Feel free to bookmark my blog, and visit back from time to time to see how I am progressing!
Sunday, April 09, 2006
This weekend I'm celebrating a significant achievement! I finally finished editing Chapters 5 and 6 by Friday night, after spending a good 6 weeks on them, and by Sunday evening have now finshed Chapter 7! In fact, I'm already well into Chapter 8! I've written easily 15,000 words this weekend, an unusually productive time. My creativity is fired up and I'm on a roll!
Current word count: 76,393 words!
Friday, April 07, 2006
TITLE: THE REFLECTING STONE
The following is a blurb that could appear on the back cover of the novel. On the front cover you'd see a picture of two naked young men in a pond, one of them holding a small black cube about the size of his fist, both of them marveling at it. Here's the blurb:
Thor has two problems. First, he is in love with his best friend, Sven, even though he knows his village will not allow it. Second, he has found the most powerful magic stone of all, the Reflecting Stone, which is claimed by both the Great Wizard and greedy King Harald. Each will kill, or worse, to have it! Shunned by his village for his forbidden love, an outcast hunted by all and protected only by a heretical band of Mystics, will Thor learn to wield the power of the stone to save himself and those like him? Or are the others right, and he is by his very nature an abomination to the gods? As he moves closer to realizing his Destiny, will his forbidden love destroy him, or become the key to unlocking the power of the Reflecting Stone?
Believe it or not, I got the idea for this novel on a trip to Wal-Mart! I was doing some routine weekly shopping, and while driving to the store I was thinking about how I should find a new idea for a novel, and how there is no shortage of plot ideas out there. There are billions and billions of ideas everywhere; you can get one from literally any source: a person you see, a snippet of conversation you overhear, something you read about in the news, etc., etc. I had recently come up with a new process for writing novels and wanted to try it out, and felt I needed a fresh new idea to use in doing that.
When I came out of the Wal-Mart after doing my shopping, I pushed the cart to my car, still thinking about finding a new idea for a novel. I loaded the trunk and then grabbed hold of the shopping cart and began to push it toward one of those places where you drop off carts in parking lots (I hate it when people leave carts in the parking spaces!). I decided to take a quick moment to take in what I was experiencing -- a very "Zen" thing to do -- and in about one second I sampled all of my senses. I took it all in and it made a lasting impression. I still remember that one second very clearly.
It was a little hot, around 80 degrees, the last hot day of the year, end of September, beginning of October. The sun was shining brightly, so brightly that I was squinting because of it after coming out of the store. I felt myself about to break out in a sweat from the exertion of pushing the cart in the hot sunlight. The air was warm and dry. My throat was dry. I breathed in and felt the warm air run through my sinuses, down my throat. I was pushing something, a load, a burden.
I took these perceptions and stripped away the parking lot, the cars, the cart itself, the freeway nearby, the modern world altogether. I became a character, sensing these things....
I became a man, about 30, with long dark hair and big, scruffy beard, wearing multiple layers of clothing, all of it tattered. I was walking through a dry, barren landscape. The countryside was full of hills. I was carrying something, a burden. The sun was bright, it hurt my eyes. I was dry, parched. I was alone. If I ran into people, they would be afraid of me, and me of them. I was a stranger in a strange land.
That was my original image, my original idea. Out of that, with some modifications and lots of additions, developed my new novel, which will run 120,000 words when finished!
See my next posting for a current description!
I am currently writing the second draft of a 120,000-word novel. I anticipate this will be the final draft, with ongoing editing as I write and a final intense revision of the completed draft. The novel is divided into twelve chapters. I have completed the first six. So, I am half-way done. In case you want to know how I got to this point, the comments below show what has gone before!
THE HISTORY OF THE WORK:
STAGE 1: DEVELOPING THE IDEA.
I got the idea for the novel at the end of September, beginning of October, 2005 (see next posting for that story!). I spent the month of October, 2005, planning the novel. During that time I wrote extensive notes, tables and outlines, a total of 60,000 words! I read many online articles to refresh on ideas related to novel writing and to help me explore my new idea in depth.
STAGE 2: THE FIRST DRAFT.
I wrote the first draft in November, 2005, writing about half the novel, a little over 50,000 words before stopping. I realized that I was writing too quickly, and having a hard time finding the voice, tone, style, etc. However, the experience did help me see the characters and story more clearly and sharpen my focus.
STAGE 3: REVISING THE PLAN.
I spent the first few weeks of December, 2005, going back over my notes and writing a lot of new ones, revising the existing outline and further detailing the scenes. This work totaled about 20,000 words, giving me a total of 80,000 words written just to plan this novel! The new plan felt very solid when I was done with it.
STAGE 4: THE SECOND DRAFT.
In late December, 2005, I began writing the second draft. I made a lot of progress in the first month of writing, getting through the first three chapters, about 30,000 words in four weeks. I then stopped writing and put in a few weeks to edit what I had written. I needed to make sure I had a solid foundation to build the rest of the novel on. Those chapters are now very polished. I sent the first two to a reader who enjoys Fantasy novels. The reader commented the story was "captivating", very interesting, a book certainly worth buying, and that the back-cover blurb alone (see a later posting!) is enough to sell the book!
"A HICCUP ALONG THE WAY...."
With that encouragmenet I dived back into the writing. In February and March I worked very hard on Chapters 4, 5 and 6. I got hung up on Chapters 5 and 6 and spent about 6 weeks writing and rewriting them, trying to find the right balance, focus, purpose, complications, tie-in to theme, etc. I think also I was just getting burned out and needed to slow down or take a break. I had written over 140,000 words in just 6 months, more than I'd ever written before. I again turned to the internet for articles to read about writing issues (plot, character development, etc.) and with a little more encouragement from others who write I made it through and finished the chapters. That was a breakthrough since those two chapters were quite challenging for me.
"BACK ON TRACK...."
Now I'm back to work in the third quarter of the story (chapters 7, 8, 9). I'm currenlty working on Chapter 7!
Yes, it's true -- I'm writing a novel. I've been working on it since October, 2005, about six months now. When finished, it will run about 120,000 words.
How to categorize it? It's a gay fantasy novel. This means it could be shelved under "Gay/Lesbian Fiction" and/or under "Fantasy" (think "Lord of the Rings").
This blog is where I will chronicle the process of writing the novel. I'll talk about how I go about doing the work, the challenges I face, the progress I make. I won't talk in too much detail about the novel, and I won't post samples here, since I don't want to give too much away. I'm hoping to get it published.
Current timeline for completion:
- May 31st for the current draft
- June 30, 2006, for the finished manuscript.
Wish me luck!