Sunday, December 05, 2010

Puttin' On the Kettle

A few weeks ago I completed the 140k+ first draft of my new WIP. Since then, I've gained some distance from the story, and a more objective perspective on it. At first I had planned on editing the first draft. Now I've determined that it would be better to rewrite it.

The problem with the first draft is quite simple: too much "show" and not enough "tell". I wrote too quickly, and failed to fully immerse myself in the story. As the work stands, the Reader will simply not experience the story at a level of depth and immersion that will make for rewarding reading. The story itself is rich enough, interesting enough -- I just need to bring it to life on the page with a more vivid sense of detail -- and not the kind of detail you can "edit in". In essence, I need to more fully realize the true voice of the story.

This sounds like disappointing news but it's not. The first draft was NOT a waste of time. I had the opportunity to work through the story which helped me to better learn it. I can use that draft to guide me in the rewrite, and I can even borrow some chapters and pieces directly from it, since some of it is quite good. Having that draft behind me, plus my notes on hand, I'll feel much more confident that I can finish this new draft and make it better.

I've already started rewriting, and have about 1.5 chapters done. I'm not going to set any definitive word count goals or chapter completion goals at this time. I'll go slow and write, experience, edit, tinker, improve upon, and move forward, then backward, then forward again. The only requirement is that I keep it moving, and that I try to finish about 3 or 4 chapters per week. However much I write will be fine, as long as it's of the quality that I'm looking for.

I know what I want this story to look like when it's finished, how I want it to read. I'm going to start fresh and immerse myself in it much more than I did during the first draft, and do my best to bring the story to life. My only concern is to keep moving, so I don't wear myself out. I know I have a limited amount of time to complete this draft before burn-out sets in. I'll try to remember to push on when I need to.

Putting on the kettle, since it'll be another long haul,


P.S. Congratulations to all those successful Nanowrimo participants!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Golly Gee!

It just kinda figures, don't it? I get myself all organized to start my editing work, and up come a few other things that are totally un-writing-related! And of course those other things are quite pressing! So, I'll have to hold off a week or two (or three) before I get down to work on my new writing goals because I need this time for those other projects.

That said, I did manage to complete the essential planning notes this past week for WIP B, and I did happen to edit 5 of the 80 chapters of WIP A. I'll still fit some work in here or there over the next week or two (or three), but I won't worry about specific productivity goals because I really won't have the time to devote to them.

When I am ready to start work on my new writing goals, I'll reset the deadlines as appropriate.

Wishing Nanoers all the best as they near the final week,


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Setting the Course

After taking a little time to read over the first draft of my WIP, and reflect on how to proceed, I've arrived at a couple of decisions!

First, I want to start immediately on my next WIP even while I begin editing the current WIP. After all, a professional writer should be comfortable juggling more than one project at the same time.

Second, I want to set my new working schedule as follows:

My new "work week" will run from Sunday to Saturday. I'll use Sunday thru Wednesday to work on the "new" WIP ("WIP B"), and Thursday thru Saturday to edit the just-finished, 142,000-word first draft of the "current" WIP ("WIP A").

The first step is to finish planning the new WIP B -- it's a story I've worked on before, so I'm only revising my planning notes and that shouldn't take more than a few days (I've already started this past week). I'll finish planning this week and start the draft next Sunday.

When Thursday rolls around this week, I'll begin editing in earnest of WIP A, the large, recently-completed draft. I've already printed it out in a format I can use for the initial editing, using my new printer -- what a relief it was to see how well it handled the print job! My last printer (an HP) never worked all that well, but this new one (a Canon) never misfed once and the quality is excellent. To help set me up for the editing, I'll gather together the editing notes I wrote while writing the first draft and organize them during the first part of this week, so I'm ready to print them out by Thursday to have a hard copy on hand alongside the printed first draft.

I figure it will take six weeks to complete the draft of the new WIP B, which is a shorter novel, plus this first week to complete the planning. That gives me a deadline of seven weeks for that task, which happens to be January 1, 2011.

I plan to take only three weeks for the preliminary editing of WIP A, which consists primarily of looking for stuff to cut out in order to shorten the lengthy draft. That gives me an intermediate deadline of December 4, 2010.

Then, I'll take four weeks for the first run-through, turning "telling" into "showing" wherever I can, and generally tightening up the prose. That gives me another deadline of January 1, 2011.

At that point, I'll establish the next deadlines for both projects.

In summary:

By December 4th: Complete preliminary editing (cutting down to size) of WIP A.

By January 1st: Complete first editing phase of WIP A; complete draft of WIP B.

Off and running!


Monday, November 08, 2010

Mid-Week Update (7.5 Weeks In)

Finished the final chapters! The first draft of my current WIP is now complete at 80 chapters and 142,040 words. I've also started reading the complete manuscript -- in sequence -- for the first time. I've reached chapter 31 and so far it's holding together very well! I know there are a few continuity issues later on, but these chapters are tight (except for a name or two, here or there). I'll report again after I've completed the reading.

Feels great to see such progress under my belt!


Thursday, November 04, 2010

Week 7: 75 Chapters / 135,077 Words

So close! Almost finished the novel within the past week, writing 18 new chapters and 39,964 new words! That was an amazing week!

There are 5 more chapters to go, the final 5, which I'll estimate at another 6,250 words, give or take a few thousand. I'll finish them up soon, obviously.

It's been quite a juggling act, keeping track of so many details. I remember back a few years to when I finished another lengthy manuscript. I felt as though I were trying to land a large jet aircraft that had been severely damaged, and not all its parts were working --- flashbacks to Karen Black in one of those airplane disaster movies.

Well, this time there has been a bit of minor turbulence, but nothing major. The darned thing is holding together pretty well, all things considered! I'm quite impressed with the enormous benefit I've reaped from having planned the story in detail beforehand. Definitely makes the job a whole lot easier!

Not that writing 140,000 words is "easy."

At this point, I'm debating whether to take a break or move directly into the editing. If I take a break, I can use it to plan my next novel. Either way, I'll start editing as soon as I can, within a couple of weeks. I want to whip this into shape for ABNA in January, if I can. If it takes longer, that's fine, too -- I've put so much work into it, and the story is so worthwhile, once it's done I feel it'll truly be worth something!

Best wishes again to Nanoers, that they reach their word count and other goals in November!


Monday, November 01, 2010

Mid-Week Update (6.5 Weeks In)

Easing up the past couple weeks helped me get through the fatigue and now I'm getting lots done! Of course, it helps that I'm writing the important chapters in the later part of the story -- they're high-interest, suspenseful, full of action, etc.

The current word count stands at 125,250. I've written 30,137 words in only four days! I revised the total chapter goal down to 80 chapters, which will be adjusted during editing as needed. Working within that framework, I have 70 chapters done, and only 10 to go!

With any luck I'll continue at this pace. I hope to finish the first draft sometime later this week!

Wishing all those Nanoers embarking on their noveling frenzy for November the best of luck!


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Week 6: 57 Chapters / 95,113 Words

Golly, another week? The time is flying by! I wrote 13,345 words this past week, which is slightly above the 12,500 I set as my general weekly goal. It was a successful week in terms of words written, but as I only completed 5 chapters, I only reached half my chapter goal of 10 chapters per week. Obviously, these were long chapters. At least I still met my word count goal!

As you will notice in the sidebar, I raised the total word count goal on the progress bar back up to 110k since it appears likely the novel will continue to run long as I finish the last, and most important, scenes. I added one chapter to the anticipated total, bringing that number to 83. It may yet climb higher as I take more space to bring to life various portions of the story.

Again, as in the past, the extra material is not the result of surprising new adventures my characters are leading me on, but is simply due to needing more space to really bring the scenes to life. It's important to immerse the Reader in the world of the story, in the events as they happen, so the Reader will be able to identify with the characters and feel the emotion of what is happening. I set a word count pace that is a bit fast, and slowing it down is definitely helping with the critical scenes I'm working on these days. When I reach the editing stage, I'll look for ways to consolidate some of this to reduce the number of chapters and/or word count. For now, I'm just getting it down in writing so I'll have what I need to work with later.

It's still a fun story. It's still fun to work with these characters. I really enjoy getting caught up in the story as I write it. However, the fatigue factor has definitely set in. My writing is more erratic now, in that I'm not writing seven days per week as before, with daily goals, but am working on some days and not on others and am writing more when I do write to make up for lost time. The days off are helping me through the fatigue issues.

The important thing is to keep a positive attitude and remember how I felt about this story earlier. It's truly special, and I love it and the characters and feel Readers will enjoy it as well. It's worth my time, and worth the effort.

The end is in sight, in terms of completing this first draft. Looks like it'll still take me 8 weeks instead of 6, but at least that's better than the 10 I originally gave myself.

Dealing with the peaks and valleys, and carrying on through it all,


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Week 5: 52 Chapters / 81,768 Words

This past week I made more progress, but only 8 chapters. I'm trying to write 10 at a minimum! I can take heart that two of the chapters were very long (about 8k words between them) and I think I'll break them up. To reflect this I added one more chapter to the total, bringing it up to 82 now. It might be 83, depending on how I divide up this material.

In every case where I've added chapters, it hasn't been due to unforeseen "extra" adventures, but the fact that I found I needed more words to express something I had already planned on conveying, or I decided to add back in a scene that I had originally planned then decided not to write. So, it's an adjustment to the amount of space that I need to tell the existing story, rather than any departure from the original story.

Anyhoo, considering I really wrote one (or two) extra chapters in what I produced this week, my weekly total is more like 9 or 10 chapters. Not too bad.

As the picture for this entry shows, it's a struggle! There is a definite sense of fatigue now. I've hammered out over 80,000 words in the space of 4 weeks of writing time, dispersed over 5 weeks. That's a lot to produce. It's definitely a very intense experience! But I'm hovering around 80% done now, so at least I can move forward knowing that it'll soon be over and then I can take another break ... before I begin the editing.

Hanging in there,


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Week 4: Took A Break!

Yes, I took some time off! It wasn't planned. The previous week I got only 4 to 4.5 hours of sleep per night for several nights in a row, and by last weekend I was exhausted. Also, after focusing so much on my writing and other work, I needed to catch up on family time. Then, this past week, other demands were unusually heavy, and I never got caught up with myself. As the days slipped away I kept thinking I'd catch back up the next day, but it just didn't happen.

So, I resigned myself to a week off ... and I enjoyed it! It was good to catch up on rest where I could and recharge my batteries. Sleep is vital for creativity, at least in my experience.

No bother. I'm getting back to work this week. Looking forward to finishing up this draft as quickly as possible. I'm already half caught up, with 5 more chapters finished, bringing the current total to 44 out of 81 (yes, I added one more chapter to the novel). The current word count, as reflected in the graphic in the sidebar, is 61,973, out of just over 100k (I adjusted the total to reflect the projection for 81 chapters).

I'll keep working, trying to catch up and make as much progress as I can this week. I just wrote a few very interesting scenes, and that always gives me a boost. Many more gems to come.

Wishing you progress with your own WIP, and a little time for yourself when you need it,


Thursday, October 07, 2010

Week 3: 39 Chapters / 51,287 Words

More steady progress this past week. One chapter ran seriously long, coming in around 3,000 words. It required significant editing to shorten it. Otherwise, the chapter lengths have been pretty much on target.

I'm approaching the half-way point of the novel. If I'm able to keep this pace up, then I should be done in about another three weeks, making a total of six weeks for the rough draft. That's pretty good for a novel of 100k words!

I'm still eager to read through it in sequence for the first time. Since I've been writing it out of sequence, that'll be an eye-opener, I'm sure.

I think I'm on track. However, since I'm lost in the writing phase these days, I find myself questioning everything. I want to stop writing and revisit the planning. I want to rethink major scenes, and I question whether I have any clue what this story is about or whether my understanding is as deep as it needs to be.

All of this is normal.

Whether I had planned a little or a lot, I'd be experiencing these same doubts. I have to trust in the plan and carry on. This is not the time to rethink, but to follow what I mapped out and simply bring it to life on the page. Then, when it's all there, I can look it over and see what I've actually got. What I think I'm doing is not necessarily what I'm doing. How I think it's going is not necessarily how it's going. Such a lack of objectivity is normal when one is lost in the creative phase of writing manuscript pages. I mustn't take it too seriously!

So I'll carry on. As I must.


Sunday, October 03, 2010

Mid-Week Update (2.5 Weeks In)

Currently at 41,932 words. I've completed 34 chapters out of 80. That leaves 46 more chapters to go!

I'm 42.5% through based on the chapter count, 42% based on word count -- which means the word count is in line with the intended goal. Therefore, I'm changing the expected total word count back to 100k as appropriate for 80 chapters (but it may spill over, as long as it doesn't exceed 110k).

I've officially dropped the Prologue. I also added one more chapter in the early part of the novel, making the total 80 (it was actually 79 through this past week, but I figured I'd add another chapter somewhere).

The "new" chapter was one of the original scenes I had imagined early on. I left it out as "not truly needed" while planning, but as I'm writing I feel it has a value in developing the characters and tightening the focus (and tension) around the initial story question.

I'll slow the pace down and just do the normal amount of work this week. I wrote extra last week, but I can't sustain that every week. There is a reason for establishing a reasonable weekly output and sticking to it. If I overdo I'll risk burning out or needing to take a few days off. Better to stick to a sustainable pace.

The weather has finally cooled. YEAH! I like this much better.

Back to work,


Thursday, September 30, 2010

Week 2: 29 Chapters / 36,402 Words

Another productive week behind me! I've stopped trying to edit as I go. The forward rush really takes all the time I have. It's better not to edit anyway, although a little tweaking for clarity as I write is fine. I almost finished the antagonist's scenes -- only two more to write. They were, as anticipated, much shorter and it was a welcome relief to see that I could still keep scenes brief and tightly-focused. Running long is not a good pattern to fall into.

My minimum goal is ten scenes per week. I was able to write more scenes this past week due to the fact that many of these scenes were shorter. As I transition into the main character's POV, the scenes will tend to run long again. The word count is currently in line with where it should be, but I'm sure it'll grow at least somewhat excessive again from this point forward, so I'll leave the estimated word count at 110,000, instead of 100k.

I have about 51 more scenes to write. That should take about five more weeks. If so, then I'll actually finish the draft in seven weeks instead of eight, which is terrific since it'll leave me with another week to use for the editing! I've set a date in January for this novel to be completed, in time to submit it for the next Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest.

Up to this point, I've been planning on a pattern of many short chapters. Each chapter has only one scene. Thus, eighty scenes equals eighty short chapters. Some run 500 to 600 words, others closer to 2000 words, so there is variety. The generic word count goal per chapter (scene) is 1250 words, with a range from 500 to 1750 or thereabouts. I may keep this arrangement or I may decide to group the scenes into fewer chapters of multiple scenes. I'll wait until the editing phase to make that decision. The rationale for many short chapters is the idea that people sometimes read in short installments and the goal is to make the story readily accessible for reading during the daily commute or the typical lunch break.

That's all for now! I'm enjoying it and trying to remember to pace myself. It is a marathon, and I have a lot left to write, so best not to overdo. I have to complete this draft, then I still have many weeks of intense editing ahead of me. I look forward to the time when I can share the completed story!

Best wishes for your own writing progress,


Sunday, September 26, 2010

Mid-Week Update

Just a quick update at what is "mid-week" according to my writing calendar. Since I started on a Thursday, each week begins on Thursday and ends on Wednesday. I am now mid-way into the second week.

The work currently stands at 18 chapters out of 80, and 29k words out of a revised total of 110,000. Since things are running a little longer than I intended, I revised the estimated total upward by 10k. See the updated the graphic in the sidebar.

I finished the scenes for the Romantic Interest Subplot and have written the first scene for the Antagonist Subplot. I'll continue those scenes this week. There are twelve more of them to do. If I can, I'll try to finish all those scenes by Wednesday, working beyond the 10-scenes-per-week pace that I had established. These scenes are much easier to write and most of them are supposed to be somewhat shorter, so it might be possible to accomplish this within the next several days.

That's all ... want to keep it brief. I'll update again after this second week's work is complete.

Best wishes for your own rapid progress,


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Week 1: 11 Chapters / 19,323 Words

Autumn has officially begun and I've just completed my first full week of writing on my new WIP. I'd certainly call the first week a success. The novel has grown slightly: I'm now estimating 80 chapters and 100k words.

My goal is to complete 10 chapters per week for 8 weeks. I reached 11 chapters this first week. The chapters are running long, so the word count is higher than it should be. At 11 chapters, it should average out to 13,750 words. I completed 19,323 words, which means I'm hammering out about 40% more than I need to.

It's hard to keep it as short as I want it to be! Some of this can be edited away when I tighten the prose. However, in a few chapters I planned to abbreviate through narrative summary and I'm finding it hard to summarize and thereby "leave out" scenes. I tend to want to dramatize these steps since they are interesting in their own right and help flesh out the world and characters as well as advance the plot, so I end up with two or three scenes where I should have only one with some summary to move things along.

At first I was worrying about this but now I've decided to just go with it. This is the first draft and I would be better off having the extra scenes in case I decide to use them later. I can expand the word count as needed. Better to stay true to the story and these scenes seem vital enough to warrant inclusion as I'm writing them. Once I complete the draft then I can put my editor's cap back on and reorganize or cut out scenes as appropriate.

Today I'm starting the second week and looking forward to it. Hope it's as easy as the first week. I really breezed through the writing thanks to all the planning, and I feel the overall quality is pretty good for the first draft. I just have to keep my confidence up -- I realize all too well that I've left behind the logical planning stage and am now immersed in the creative phase, and I have to respect that. This is not the time to rethink things, or analyze the plot. I just need to write, to follow the blueprint, the map, the plan. Let it happen, and it will happen. Then, I can clean up the messes later. Overall, I'm doing really well with sticking to the plan and maintaining continuity.

Marching on,


Saturday, September 18, 2010

It Felt Like Christmas Eve

After so much preparation, I eagerly looked forward to the day I had marked on my calendar to begin the first draft of my new WIP. That day was Thursday (9/16). I took Wednesday night off from any writing activities to give myself time to clear my head and rest up. That night, it felt like Christmas Eve! I was so excited. I had dreamed of creating such a collection of planning materials in the past, but never quite succeeded. This time, I went all out. In the weeks leading up to the big day I thought the story through forward and backward and mapped every scene in detail.

When Thursday rolled around and I finally sat down to write the first chapter, I felt like I was opening a wonderful gift that I had prepared for myself. I wrote joyfully, satisfied that I knew what I was doing. True, it was a little daunting at first, but I found it easy to resist the tendency toward perfectionism that can stall the creative flow. It wasn't about getting it down perfectly, but getting it written. My positive experiences in writing and editing earlier this year gave me the courage to trust my ability to write and polish. I set my qualms aside and focused on the scenes as I had imagined them, and sure enough I brought the story to life on the page. I really appreciated having it all mapped out for me this time. I could focus entirely on the individual scene, rather than having to wonder where things were headed.

I've completed five chapters and am working on the sixth one. I'll try to complete ten chapters per week but that may vary. I'll try to finish the entire draft in eight weeks, no more than ten. The projected word count is 95,000 words, but it will likely be somewhat longer. I don't want to exceed 110,000 words and can edit things down as needed. This story is epic fantasy, so the word length is appropriate.

As I mentioned in previous posts, I'm writing the chapters out of order. I considered several ways of approaching that and decided at least initially I'll work with one of the minor POV characters and write through all his scenes in the order they appear in the story. Then, I'll switch to the other minor POV character, and finally to the main character. This enables me to focus on each character's voice and how his perception shades the telling of the story. Continuity is not much of an issue at this point. I really did think through the details, and am keeping track of things well enough. I can also make brief notes to remind me of fine points for later editing but haven't needed to do that yet.

I'm also setting a new rule with this draft: it's okay to edit the current chapter, but once I declare it "finished" for the sake of the initial draft, and move on to the next chapter, I can no longer go back to it. Also, I will not read any previous chapter once I begin a new day's work. In other words, I can write a chapter in the morning and return to it throughout the day to edit and improve it, but when the next day rolls around, I can no longer go back to edit it or even to read it. I can only ever look at or edit the current day's work. This plan represents a compromise between the desire to read and edit previous chapters even as I advance to new chapters, and the opposite extreme where I never look back no matter what, and never edit anything until the draft is complete.

So far, the results are very much what I was hoping for. I'm thrilled to find it so easy to bring these scenes to life. The planning has not hindered that process. It has only helped it.

I'm not sure how much I'll blog along the way. I may put up a word count meter in the sidebar. You can rest assured I'll be writing steadily, probably every single day until the draft is complete in about two months. I won't stop until it's done and I'll finish it as quickly as possible while also maintaining quality.

Off and running,


Monday, September 13, 2010

The Ball Is In My Court

Turns out I do need a few more days to complete the planning work I have in progress. Last night I wrote 10k words in scene descriptions ... covering the first 25% of the novel. I'll need a few more days to finish these for sure! I could try to write less but I enjoy exploring the scenes and feel this is useful. I'm generating details I can draw from later. Better to sure up than leave to chance.

It's clear to me from all my planning work that the ball is in my court. It's up to me what to do with this story, how to do it, when to do it. I'm not on a power trip: I'm just realizing the power that I have to make decisions. I'm seeing clearly how the decisions I make play out and how it really does matter what decisions I make. I shape the writing experience for myself.

I've tried a mixture of approaches the past few years, and continue to try new avenues in search of the most productive and efficient ways to get my stories written. It's been a long haul and a massive amount of work, but I've made substantial progress and have learned a lot along the way, both what works for me and what doesn't. I've tested the boundaries, found how far I can go with some things, where the point of diminishing returns lies, and whether it's reasonable to gamble on certain strategies or not.

I need to stay true to myself, to do what works best for me. All the writing advice in the world is just that -- advice. The reality of my work as a writer is that it is an experience which I shape, which I must know well, for which I am responsible. It's up to me to pick and choose and develop the best way for me to get the job done. I have more courage now to rule in or out various strategies, perspectives and philosophies. I've tried things ... one should never make such hefty decisions without trying things. But with experience comes the right to make those decisions.

And always, I can try something new. Sometimes when I first try a new approach it doesn't seem to work. I'm smart enough to know that doesn't mean it's a bad idea: I just may not yet have figured out how to make it work. Too often we let our assumptions (and prejudices) guide us rather than clear the slate and try in earnest to understand something that may not come naturally or easily to us. Those who persevere may eventually find a way to make a new, worthwhile idea work and gain a substantial benefit (or learn more about why something is not for us).

I'm about to launch my first draft of my new WIP and I plan on writing it out of sequence, something I've never tried before. The basic rationale is this will force me to be cognizant of what I'm writing, to write with purpose, with forethought, with awareness, rather than from the seat of my pants. Even when I have planned substantially in the past before writing a draft, in the end it always comes down to developing a context, i.e., figuring it out as I go. This time I want to change that pattern, to force myself into a situation where I must know the story, and maintain continuity of the important details, a situation where writing is sharing what I know rather than learning the story as I go.

It will be interesting to see how this experiment pans out. I anticipate a very enlightening experience when I finally do read (and edit) my way through for the first time in sequence from beginning to end. This challenge is one I'm ready for, and doing it at this time makes sense in my ongoing development as a writer. Had I tried this a few years ago, it would probably not have taught me much of practical value. If this strategy works as I hope, it may become my new way of doing things.

We'll see!

Best wishes for your own strategizing, and may the risks you take prove worth it,


Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Planning Heaven

Yes, the view is great ... I'm in Planning Heaven and enjoying every moment of it!

How did I get here?

A lot of hard work, to be sure. But that didn't put me off! Quite the contrary. I love working hard when there's a purpose to it and when it makes a difference.

Here's what I've been up to since my last post....

First, I finished reworking the plot of my current WIP, which was originally constructed according to the Marshall Plan. I felt the need to tweak things a bit as I discovered more connections between scenes across the novel, and why various scenes were important. I added a few extra scenes to more fully develop certain subplots and even cut a few scenes when I found I could put their story business into other scenes. I kept the initial, pivotal and final scenes in the proper order according to the Marshall Plan, but now have a few additional scenes in the "between-spaces" beyond what I anticipated, based on intended word count (those familiar with the plan will know what I mean).

Then, I carried a piece of paper around with me for a week. That may not sound like such a great accomplishment in itself, but there's more to it! On the paper was a simple table with four columns for the four quarters of the story. Running down each column was a short description or title for each scene in that portion of the story. In other words, I had an overview of the novel that I could whip out and study at any convenient moment. I spent time just staring at that paper and imagining relevant details for each scene, such as "goal-conflict-failure-next goal" or "emotional-rational-decision", key snippets of dialog, and details of setting or mood or character development, etc. I internalized the story by using my imagination and reinforcing my story knowledge by remembering things, and checking my notes later when I found I couldn't remember something. The result: I know this story forward, backward, and in every other way that's fit and proper to mention.

Next, I spent the past couple of weeks creating a detailed storyboard, something I've attempted before, but never to this extent. I created a digital presentation of the story, about 400 slides with images and brief text summarizing the scenes (a few slides per scene). This gives me a visual sense of the story. Watching the presentation as a slide show allows me to read the story (in "tell" mode) and gain an overview of how well it fits together, where the highs and lows are, whether it makes sense, whether it builds suspense, etc. I had a lot of fun putting it together and it has helped enormously with putting a face to the story (actually, many faces, and locations, objects, etc.).

Currently I'm in the final phase of my expanded planning efort: I'm entering the scene data into yWriter5, which I'll use to compose the first draft. As part of this work, I'll write the final scene descriptions and also add notes of key ideas to include at key moments to help in setting up later events. I hope to have this work completed between now and this weekend but I may choose to spend one additional week on the planning in order to more fully capture those all-important little notes.

Thusly, and in such a manner, I should start the first draft either by the end of this weekend, or by the following weekend. I plan to allow about 10 weeks for that. I also plan to write this one OUT OF SEQUENCE, something I've never tried before. With such extensive planning, I feel this is worth trying for several reasons. I'll blog about that next time!

Best wishes for reaching your own Planning Heaven,


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Still Building

In my last post I set out a path for completing the planning phase of my new current WIP within two weeks, so that I can begin to write the first draft. I set a goal of writing basic scene descriptions for the entire plot, and then writing detailed scene descriptions for each scene (totaling 30+ pages). I completed the first part, mapping out every scene using the Marshall Plan template, and ended up revising the plot two times in the process. Seeing the opportunity to make even more improvements, I decided to hold off on the detailed scene descriptions until I finish yet another revision of later scenes.

It's a fascinating world, and I truly love these characters. I feel there is more story potential here and I need to slow down and spend more time developing it. I've already spent a few hundred hours planning this story over the past 3 years but there is just so much more I can see doing with the characters and events. The challenge is to accomplish these things in a limited amount of pages and point-of-view characters. It's an epic fantasy novel, and keeping it tightly woven is a challenge. I'm having a lot of fun with it, and a lot of success.

A key effort has been to weed out the "new stuff" that I kept throwing into the plot. It's much better to re-use the same "old stuff" that's already there. This makes a considerable difference in Act II, which is the middle half of the book. A lot happens here. I need to focus on a few events and their lasting impact, and allow the characters time to deal with these things in meaningful ways. For instance, instead of introducing yet another new character, I've found ways to re-introduce existing characters. I even brought one character back from the dead! What a surprise to me, and no doubt to the main character. It is fantasy, so this sort of thing is quite doable; the strength it adds to the story is readily apparent. Giving the characters time to deal with things does not mean adding a lot of reaction scenes -- it just means that the new action scenes follow and build on existing situations rather than representing a constant departure for new, unrelated adventures. Things unfold, one to the next, in a direct and relevant fashion, rather than as a hodge-podge of new things thrown at the characters.

I'm now making my third revision of Act II, each time tightening, narrowing, further developing what's already there. It's greatly improving the story. I've spent a lot of time on it these past two weeks and am spending a lot of time again this week. I won't worry about the self-imposed deadline of two weeks, which has just passed. As long as I'm working hard and making such solid progress, watching the story improve visibly in front of my eyes, I have no reason to rush ahead. I'll give myself the time I need to complete this important work before solidifying it with the detailed scene descriptions, the final task before I'll be ready to begin the first draft. This added effort now will help make that draft much easier to write, and should considerably reduce the macro-level editing to follow.

Wish I could share details, but I guess the best way to do that is to wait until the final draft is complete, when I can share the whole story!

Working hard and loving it,


Saturday, August 07, 2010

Progress with Planning

Just a quick update on the planning work for my new WIP. This past week I reviewed prior Snowflake planning notes and tweaked the characters' perspectives based on how they've developed in my thoughts over time. I also tightened the parameters (number of POV characters, word count), completed a preliminary scene list for the entire novel using the Marshall Plan, and have done "Stage 1" basic scene descriptions for the first half plus the ending. I have about 20 scenes in the later second act left to map out, then I'll have to step back and take a look at the whole thing before continuing to the next stage.

This marks the first time that I've actually followed the Marshall Plan as-is throughout the entire novel. I usually do my own thing based on the Marshall Plan, but with more POV characters and with a less-than-true order to the scenes. This time I wanted to stay within the limits of the Plan and see how it turns out. I like it!

It's amazing how tightly the story is now plotted. I saw opportunities to consolidate scenes, handling more than one item of business in the same scene. I also was much more aware of the impact of POV, and that's certainly a good thing. Plotting this tightly is hugely beneficial. I can always add a scene or two here or there later on if I feel it is needed. I know the story well and know I can't represent everything in the novel. Some of it is too peripheral, even if it is interesting in its own right. I'm keeping it focused and the extraneous clearly stands out.

I'll complete the basic scene descriptions in the next day or two, then during the coming week I'll go back over them and write the "Stage 2" descriptions, 30+ pages featuring a paragraph or two for each scene summarizing the gist and including any tidbits of dialog that I know already, certain key lines that must be said at certain key points. Hopefully by the end of this coming week the slightly-more-detailed scene descriptions will be complete, and then I'll take time to rehash, review and polish the plan yet again.

Feels good to see such concrete progress!


Saturday, July 31, 2010

Charting the Course

My recent Creative Break is officially over! I'm back at work and have been for a couple of weeks, albeit off and on. Now I'm rolling up my shirt sleeves, baring my knuckles, preparing to dive in and stir up the dust to drive things home! And no, I don't have time to cut down on mixed metaphors!

I'm excited, which is a good sign. I needed a break and I don't regret taking it. My head is clear and my sense of purpose is sharp. The iron is hot. Time to strike.

As always, I reflected on how things went this last go-round, in order to avoid whatever pitfalls I encountered and make a better go of it this time. Here's what I decided:

(1) I can burn out on a story if I spend too many months and too much effort on it. It's more important to get through a draft. I'll limit myself to a quick first draft, whatever the result, and trust in my editing capabilities, which I'm quite happy with after seeing how I turned rough stuff into slick stuff over the past several months.

(2) I'm going to work from a detailed scene list rather than just major plot pillars. The details can be basic (POV character, goal, complication, result, time, place, etc.). To help me plan, I'm using the Snowflake Method for brainstorming and general overview, the Marshall Plan for scene and sequence, and to write it I'll use yWriter5 for the first time.

(3) Some other things I won't blog about, including new tricks I've come up with that are helping immensely. You know I've gotten onto some really good stuff if I'm not sharing it.

Once again, I won't say anything about the novel since I want it to sell. I won't even give it a name. It's just my current WIP. Nuff said.

Good to be back in the driver's seat, on the road again, building steam in the engine, etc.

Current goals: finish planning in one to two weeks; start first draft immediately once scene list is complete; finish first draft within three months of starting it. Oh, and do a really good job with it! ;-)

Wishing Wynn a lot of fun in Greece, where she may finally wrap up her novel on Alexander the Great this summer, and wishing everyone else all the enthusiasm they can muster,


Sunday, July 18, 2010

Who'da Thunk It?

According to a web site which analyzes your writing and compares it to other authors, I write like:

I write like
Dan Brown

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Who'da thunk it?! (hahahaha)

I tried it with a sample of my recent WIP, the one I worked on steadily from November until recently. Trying it again with another section of text from the same WIP, I got these results:

I write like
Ian Fleming

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Trying it again with an excerpt from JACK & JILL: THE UNTOLD STORY, which I worked on a couple of years ago (and have been toying with recently), I got these results:

I write like
J. K. Rowling

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

And, using a sample from my children's fiction (Middle Grade, ages 8-12):

I write like
Ursula K. Le Guin

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Finally, using a sample from THE REFLECTING STONE, the first novel I worked on about four years ago....

I write like
William Shakespeare

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!


So what have I done to my writing over the past four years that it would plunge from the heights of Sheakespeare to, well, uh, nevermind.

At least it's good for a laugh,


Friday, July 02, 2010

Sunrise & Sunset

My Kindle ebook reader arrived yesterday and I must say -- I'm impressed! I really like it. I've always felt comfortable reading on my laptop, and the new e-ink technology is even better. The Kindle is lightweight, solid, a good size that's easy to hold and the buttons are easy to use.

I've already downloaded about 500 free ebooks of various kinds, so I have plenty to read. A lot of them are classics I've always wanted to experience but never have, or some I read years ago and would enjoy reading again. Some deal with history, philosophy, mythology, etc. I also look for current novels that are offered for free -- there are plenty of them around. Eventually I'll start buying content and will be happy to do so at a reasonable price -- I think ebook prices should be lower, not higher, than print books (a topic in itself).

One thing really struck me once I started reading a book on my new Kindle: this thing really does mark a major step forward in the evolution of how we read. I think back to the ancient cuneiform tablets of Mesopotamia, the papyrus scrolls of ancient Egypt, the runes hacked into the sides of trees or carved into stones along the roads of ancient Scandinavia. Then came paper and finally the invention of movable type. The Kindle and other ebook readers represent as big a step forward as the Gutenberg press. We're now witnessing the first steps of a major transformation in how written information can be disseminated. It's already started, of course, with computers and the internet, but with devices such as the Kindle the digital age will bring us to a time when print books will be a rarity, something for collectors. Not in our lifetimes, but it won't take long for this new technology to become widespread in the developed world, then the norm. We're seeing the sunset of the printed word, and the sunrise of a new age.


It's cool on the one hand, but a little weird on the other. I wonder how those with access to hand-copied manuscripts felt in Gutenberg's time when printed books began to appear, then became the norm!

The first novel I'm reading on my Kindle is His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik, which was recently offered for free on Amazon. I'm about a quarter of the way through it already and I'm enjoying it immensely. It combines an old-fashioned sea tale with dragon lore -- awesome! The writing style is reminiscent of nineteenth-century novels, which I adore. I'm impressed with the consistent quality of the prose. It's a great story for someone into dragons and the era of sailing ships.

The Kindle certainly helps me to focus while reading. I use a larger font size which puts fewer words per line and ultimately per page. This helps me to read quickly and the need to turn the page draws me forward. Seeing the progress bar on the bottom of the screen also encourages me to move along. I have no difficulty losing myself in the story; the device does not distract. The Kindle certainly makes reading easy -- I could read from sunrise to sunset!

I won't commit to reading a novel a week, but I will certainly enjoy reading as much as I can as often as I can. What a great way to catch up on my dream list of books I've always wanted to read but never found the time for! And what a great way to keep current with what's being published today. I wasn't sure how I'd feel with the device, whether it might seem overblown and unnecessary, but now that I've tried it, I'm totally sold. Glad I bought it, and I look forward to countless hours enjoying it.

Back to my reading,


Saturday, June 19, 2010

What We Sow...

The old adage is true: what we sow, we also reap. Speaking in writing terms, the effort to become a published writer is much like cultivating a field of, uh, dreams (where have I heard that phrase before?). We must cultivate this field and nurture it along over time. Only when the proper season comes do we have the opportunity to harvest what we have sown. You can't plop a seed in the ground today and expect it to mature by tomorrow. Things take time.

Since November or so, I've been working very hard to get something finished. I have felt that I'm very close to ready myself, and the time has come. I've worked hard at my craft for several years now, and off an on for many more years before that. I've learned a lot, have plugged in the holes, found what was missing, and strengthened the weak spots. I've studied and rehearsed and just plain worked hard. Where then, are the results? I need a completed manuscript, and I need to start turning them out one after the other.

And yet I find myself sitting here in June with a half-finished novel!

I grabbed the bull by the horns and refused to let go ... but now I have ease my grip and step back a moment. It's time now to pause, to reflect, to take a break. Not an extended break, but a break. I poured my heart and soul into this work over the past several months, and I'm drained. Writing is very demanding, both mentally and emotionally. Sometimes we need to step back and rest, refill the creative wellspring, reconsider our position, plan the best course to continue. When the time is right, we can move forward.

This is one reason why it's good to have multiple projects in the works -- you can switch from one to another and that alone can help you move forward (at something) rather than grind to a halt (at everything). Nonetheless, sometimes we need a break, and that means to literally stop working and take a break.

I am drained, a little burned out creatively, and very much exhausted emotionally. But it's not so severe, not as bad as it has been on other occasions. I will be ready to get back into it shortly. I've eased off the past couple of weeks and already I'm feeling much better.

I've missed my goal of having this current novel finished by July 1st. That is frustrating, but I have to accept it. I'm a work in progress myself, much like my novel. As much as I want to "be there" at this point, I'm not. I'm still becoming a writer. But I'm almost there. I'm sure of that.

And when I am "there", I will know it. I will prove it time and time again. And I'll be sure to let the world know.

Enjoying a well-deserved respite, guilt-free, and looking forward,


Monday, May 31, 2010


The season is changing again. Spring is giving way to summer. Already the heat and humidity are upon us. Daily activities change and distractions pop up everywhere. I've certainly had a lot of them lately! My writing time has greatly diminished with other obligations taking the forefront. It happens.

I'm doing what I can to keep my writing "alive" during this time of intense distraction. I did manage to map out the remainder of the WIP, and the "But List" really helped me focus my scenes. Now I just have to get back into the story and pick up where I left off. It's still not finished after all this time, but I have done quality work and am proud of that.

I'll blog more when I have more time!


Saturday, May 15, 2010

The "But List"

Perhaps it doesn't sound quite as glamorous as the "Bucket List", but for novel writing the "But List" is a very useful tool. It's a slimmed-down version of the "Goal, Complication, Result" list that many of us use -- a way to keep track of conflict. Mine is a table with just four columns: INDEX, POV, WANTS/NEEDS and "BUT".

In the INDEX column, I keep track of which scene I'm referring to. I use a three-digit format: act, chapter, scene. The chapters are continuous, but the scene numbers are restarted at "1" for each chapter. For Act III, Chapter 27, Scene 2, the notation is: 3-27-2. Easy and quick.

The POV column contains just the name of the POV character for the given scene. Again, easy and quick.

The WANTS/NEEDS column contains the POV character's main goal for the scene. It is something the character wants or needs. I use WANTS/NEEDS instead of GOAL as the heading for this column because it feels more immediate, more real. People don't think in terms of goals; they think in terms of what they want or need at any given moment. Goals exist, of course, but we only think of them as such in certain contexts. I like to be reminded that characters are driven by wants and needs, rather than just goals, which sound too impersonal as a source of motivation.

Finally, the "BUT" column contains the complication, whatever happens that stands in the way of true happiness. For example, if a character wants to buy an ice cream cone, then the "BUT" column might contain: "The store is closed." No true happiness there! Or, if the character will buy the ice cream cone, then it must be something else, such as: "Cashier remarks it's fattening." So, the POV character reaches the goal, but finds reason to regret it. Hmm, maybe I'll keep that in mind the next time I go shopping for ice cream!

The "But List" helps me focus my scenes to ensure they are goal-driven, rather than just a bunch of stuff that sort of happens to characters who just seem to show up at some place. It also helps me maintain a sense of conflict.

The general advice is that every scene must contain conflict, and I strive for that, but I've read plenty of scenes by successful authors and found very little outright conflict in them (the scenes, not the authors). I like it when sometimes things do work out okay for a character. It's a welcome relief from the constant pressure. It creates a happy moment and a release of tension, usually just before some major complication comes along and ruins things yet again. I know other writers and aspiring writers also share this view, that not every scene has to be pumped full of conflict, despair and broken dreams. The plot can move forward in other ways, such as a character learning information while having a good time.

In fact, I just read such a scene in the second Nightrunner novel (by Lynn Flewelling). Seregil had a romantic encounter that was enjoyable and he got some new information to spur him on. Perhaps the only conflict was that he would have liked to have stayed longer, but that sentiment wasn't expressed. He had his fun and now he's off for another adventure! Works for me (as a reader of this scene; actual lifestyle choices are another topic).

I was afraid in looking back over my current WIP that I might find the scenes were too lacking in goals and complications. I was pleased to find that only a handful of scenes needed any tweaking, and the adjustments are minor. My effort to keep goals and conflict in mind as I write has paid off. It's becoming second nature.

Well, I'm off to work more on my "But List", and solve some antagonist issues that are holding things up -- not altogether unexpected behavior for an antagonist.


Off-Color After-Thought: In the spirit of the "Bucket List", an actual "Butt List" does sound intriguing....

Thursday, May 13, 2010

A System of Organization

I've spent a bit of time this past week getting myself organized. Rather, I've been organizing my notes, not only for my current and some previous WIPs, but for my new story idea as well (the one I dreamed up while sleeping).

To help me do this, I've started using Microsoft's One Note (tm) program, which is really cool. I've had it for several years but never got around to using it, until recently. I'm glad I did. It's a terrific way to organize notes. Now, instead of using several different programs and sifting through numerous different files, I can put all my notes in one place and access them easily and conveniently without the need to open another program. This is so easy! I even developed a template to help me start off each new novel as I convert my old notes to this new system.

If you're not familiar with One Note (tm), understand that it's based on the idea of a three-ring binder. If you want to organize notes in a binder, you will fill the binder with pages and you'll probably also put some dividers in there to separate the pages into various sections. With this program, you create electronic "notebooks". The notebooks are listed down the left side of your screen so you can move from one notebook to another notebook with just one click. Within each "notebook" you create "dividers" (tabs across the top of the screen) and "pages" (tabs running down the right side of the screen). Click on a notebook, click on a divider, then click on a page and you see that page in the center of the screen. A very simple format and incredibly easy and convenient to use.

I create a new notebook for each novel. Across the top, I have dividers for major sections, including:

PROJECT (with pages for a project time line, weekly goals, work notes to remind me of what I need to do next, and pages for keeping track of eventual submissions, etc.);

IDEAS (a "sandbox" for brainstorming ideas about plot, characters, etc. -- once I have something I want to use, I copy and paste it over to other sections as appropriate);

WORLD (for fantasy world-building, including maps, descriptions of places, and pages for various aspects of the world including mythology, political system, history, culture, etc.);

CONLANGS (if any);

CHARACTERS (with a table listing all the characters, their ages, places of origin and brief identifications, then separate pages for each of the important characters to flesh them out); and

PLOT (with an Overview, and pages for various tables and lists and details, and a tab for each ACT (I divide my stories into Act I, Act II A, Act II B and Act III), where I put details about chapters and scenes within those portions of the story.

It's a lot of work on the one hand, but it has a tremendous, positive impact. In part it makes the process of writing a novel somewhat impersonal. It becomes like any other job: do this, then do that, figure this out, problem solve that, tie this together, and move on, and do it by next week. This logical, organized, impersonal side of the writing process helps make the chaos of the creative side more bearable. I'm amazed at how much information I can keep in one place and how quickly I can locate individual pages using the navigation system of this program -- so much better than hunting around inside multiple lengthy text documents and spreadsheets!

It's been a lot of fun getting this new system up and running, and I'm so glad I finally tried out One Note (tm). It's well worth the effort to learn how it works and develop a system using it.

Best wishes for keeping yourself organized,


Monday, May 03, 2010

Staying Centered

Progress is ongoing. I can't help but revise as I move forward -- it's slow, and I've tried to set that aside but I just can't since the progress is so solid. The story is over 38k now and I'm into some exciting chapters at this point. The pace is picking up, the stakes are higher, the intrigue is developing into the full-blown confrontations that will come later in this part of the story. I've had to pause to do some more research but I'm keeping that to a minimum. Parts of this story are set in a variety of locations and I need to gather some information to help me set the story in those places with some sense of local flavor. I'll expand on the details as needed in the eventual "edit" (apart from the ongoing editing).

I've also had major brainstorms on plots for other novels, and awoke one morning with a wonderful new story idea pretty well mapped out. I made notes, and since then have expanded on those notes. I think we move forward and then we need to move laterally to sure up that forward progress. Here I am making breakthroughs with the WIP and suddenly I'm seeing similar issues in other novels I've worked on! I've taken some time this past week to delve into plotting notes for past novels and have gained some new inspiration and learned more about my plotting tendencies and how I can improve. Growth is cyclical, and we need to free ourselves to go with the flow and take advantage of the insights when they come to us.

So, I've now got another exciting new story to work on whenever I get this one finished! I didn't complete the first draft within May (no surprise at this point) but I am making steady progress. I'll have to push the deadline off until the end of May for a complete draft of my WIP. That's okay, as long as I'm making progress. At this point I'm feeling the need to go back and map out what I've written, to help me plot more clearly the specific sequences to come. I'll be working on that now for the next few days.

Looking forward to a productive May,


Monday, April 26, 2010

Cool Video

Just had to share this stereotype-busting video with you. Found it on Lee Wind's blog.



Monday, April 19, 2010

YA Authors vs. Bullying

There is a new Facebook group of YA authors and supporters who are making an effort to stop bullying. Thought I'd pass news of this along. It's a very worthwhile undertaking and I'm proud that authors have gotten involved in what must be an effort by all of us to make a difference.

I read about this on Lee Wind's blog.

Have a happy, peaceful, non-bullied day.


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Seat Time

This past week has been a tough one for seat time, with many major distractions pulling me away from my writing. These included finishing the taxes and a new baby in the family (not mine!). I did get some quality work done, but not as much as I had hoped.

I edited the past few chapters again, something I just can't stop doing, probably since it's the way I've been working throughout this entire draft and with good results. It's just been slow, at times too slow and too tedious. I've tried rushing forward but that's not working, either.

The good news is I'm much happier with the past few chapters. One in particular had never satisfied me; I think I can say now it's not nearly as bad as I had thought it was. The editing has focused the conflict and strengthened the sense of how and why things matter to individual characters. And, I'm through that really rough spot in the plot that had tied me up for so long. The word count has grown to 31k on top of the editing work. A meager step forward, but it's very solid progress.

This coming week I'll shoot again for 10k words, and more if I can to help me catch up. It's still possible to complete this draft within April. I know if I do race ahead the quality will go down and I'll have more editing to do later. The only thing that matters, of course, if finishing this manuscript and getting it out the door -- however that happens is fine with me.

I have a larger time line I'm working against, which currently calls for me to finish the first draft in April then spend two months editing, with the finished product ready to mail out by July 1st. With all the editing I've done thus far on this draft, there isn't much more to do with the existing chapters except polish them.

I'm excited whenever I think I'll finally have something ready to send out! And I want to follow it with more stories on a regular basis. All I need is more seat time. I've enjoyed using the Cool Timer (see "Resources" in the sidebar). I don't always need it, but using it gives me an extra push, a sense of urgency.

Wishing everyone else all the seat time they need this week,


Saturday, April 17, 2010

Free Timer

I've read a number of blog posts recently that extol the virtues of using a countdown timer while writing. Indeed, setting a limited, immediate writing goal is a terrific way to help yourself focus. You effectively carve a slice of time out of your busy day and set everything else aside, knowing it'll still be there for you later. It's important to remove distractions so nothing interferes with your concentration! A timer can sure help you churn out the work.

To keep yourself fresh, write for 50 minutes, then take a 10 minute break, then write for another 50 minutes, etc. Breaks help. We need to clear our thoughts, release the tension, get some oxygen (get up and walk around!). Breaks help us return refreshed and ready to focus for another go-round.

If you don't have 50 minutes, you can set a shorter writing goal (10-15 minutes) and fit several smaller writing sessions into your busy day. This is a great way to keep in touch with your story rather than dropping it altogether when time is limited. By keeping the story moving, even slowly, you keep it from growing cold; when that happens, you need extra time just to get back into the flow of things before you can write productively again, which means you lose time.

To keep your work on-track, set a specific writing goal for each writing session. For example, "I'll use these 50 minutes to write a first draft of this scene or chapter," or, "I'll use this writing session to edit the last chapter and plan the next chapter," etc. A timer creates immediacy, but you need to complement that with a specific writing goal in order to achieve true focus.

I found a free timer called "Cool Timer" which you can download here. CNET is a great site for technology reviews, downloads, etc. The download is certified spyware-free, plus you can scan it with your own anti-virus software once you download it (just right-click the downloaded file -- you should see an option on the pop-up menu to scan it with your anti-virus software).

See the "Resources" section in the sidebar for more useful stuff!

Happy Writing,


Saturday, April 10, 2010

Climbing Over the Rough Patches

In the first week of April No-No I succeeded in breaking every rule I established for myself! Not only did I go back to the beginning and re-read the entire manuscript, but I also edited a bit here and there, in particular the last two chapters. I couldn't help it! Now I know how an addict must feel, trying to kick the habit.

Still, I managed to bring the story forward about 5k words, from 24k to 29k. That's only half the 10k progress I wanted, but I got a lot out of it. I'm not worried that I didn't make 10k -- I never wrote evenly during Nano; it came in bursts but still I made it to 50k for the month. I should still reach 40k by the end of April.

The past couple of chapters have definitely been rough terrain (hence the photo of the dune buggy). It's been a wild ride, but I'm hanging on and things are not as bad as they might be. I do know the plot; I'm just working out the details. I didn't plan this story in extreme detail because I wanted to allow myself the "joy of discovery" -- what was I thinking?! (haha)

I feel by having a specific word count goal I did get more accomplished this past week than I might have otherwise. I'll keep the goal in place and work harder this week to meet it. I hope to finish that missing 5k this weekend and get the new week's 10k done by next weekend.

I'm into Chapter 9 already and the first scene is EXCELLENT. It's the sort of stuff I want to do, and here I am doing it! Not only is this the quality and nature of the material I'm aiming for, in this case it came out clear and well-written the first time through. Exciting!

And the writing goes steadily on,


Sunday, April 04, 2010

New Blog Features


You may notice a few new items in the sidebar of my blog.

I'm now featuring free MP3 albums which you can listen to and download courtesy of Jamendo. Nice instrumental stuff that you can enjoy while writing. Jamendo offers free, legal downloads of music from aspiring musicians, composers, etc. Check it out!

Each album image has its own controls: you can listen while you view my blog. If you hit the next button (>>) you can check out the next track. And, of course, you can download the entire album to add to your collection.

At the bottom of the sidebar are also some images with links to items you may wish to purchase, if you haven't already. I'm not receiving advertising revenue from this -- I'm just sharing links to things you may enjoy.

You can now also subscribe to my blog from the sidebar, and join as a follower, showing your support.

Back to my WIP,


Friday, April 02, 2010

Wake-Up Call!

March has turned into April and my WIP is still not done! So, for what may be the third time now I'm extending my deadline, pushing it off another month! I hope to have the draft finished by the end of April!

And that constitutes a wake-up call!

Ergo, it's time for my own mini-Nano, which I'll call "April No-no" -- it's a no-no that I'm still finishing this draft in April, and no-no I won't let it go beyond that!

Time to determine weekly word-count goals. I'll set a minimum goal of 10k per week, which is about 3 chapters per week based on the length of the chapters thus far (just over 3k each).

In order to accomplish that I'll force myself to turn off the internal editor and just plow on through.

Here are my rules for April:
1. Write only on the WIP until the WIP is done (this draft).
2. Never go back to read more than the last scene before starting new writing, unless I have to search back to check a detail to maintain continuity.
3. Move forward with a bare minimum of editing as I go.
4. Read over and tweak current work only if it doesn't interfere with meeting the day's word count goal within the time available.
5. Believe that everything I'm writing is the best thing I've ever written and, besides, it'll all work out in the editing.
I'll keep you posted as I bring this draft to its conclusion within April!

BTW, I've succeeded with Nano at 50k, I should be able to do April No-no at 40k! Let's hope so. The difference is this is real, and I'm really serious about this WIP as something to send out the door, so I'm taking it much more seriously: it's not a throw-away writing exercise.

The race is on!


Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Burning the Midnight Oil

I've been working productively again. I had one really good night and a few so-so nights, but at least I've finally paved over the pot hole, that spot where my story kept sticking. I've bridged the transition and am on to the new stuff that's so much more interesting. It's fun again!

Note for future reference: when the story gets stuck, ask if you have enough story! Turns out the solution was I needed to add some other plot elements. I added two big events that give much more momentum to this section of the story. Now I can enjoy watching them unfold!


Friday, March 26, 2010

Plucking Away

I'm still plucking away in the same mired-down spot of my current WIP. It's frustrating, to be sure. I'm trying to break through, to push on, to get the momentum going again. It's slow, tedious, a veritable dry spell, but I'm not floundering: I do know the rest of the story. I'm just not focused as I need to be. Lack of sleep and too many distractions have a lot to do with it. I'll have to catch up on some sleep and set aside some quality writing time without the usual potential for interruptions. I can do it!

One of my distractions has been reading. I've found several terrific new blogs to follow and have started using a blog reader, instead of just visiting each blog each time I want to know what's new. The blog reader is really cool and makes it easy to browse through a number of blogs at once and read any new postings that are of interest. I know I'm late getting on the band wagon, but now that I've discovered how to use a blog reader, I'm hooked. I'll just have to manually disconnect from the internet to force myself to write!

Looking beyond the obvious . . . .

We grow over time. Sometimes the progress is dramatic; at other times it seems we're not moving forward, even though we are: we need time to internalize the growth. My perspectives on my work and writing career are shifting, maturing, deepening. I feel I am in a transition phase where I'm leaving behind the "trying-to-get-there" mode and am entering the "I'm-there-and-here's-the-proof" mode. Perhaps part of my problem with focusing is due to the fact that there is a lot going on under the surface right now. A major change is happening. Hopefully, I'm gearing up mentally and emotionally for a new push forward. I see myself getting things done in the coming months, finishing one manuscript after the other, rather than just struggling to complete a series of drafts that never quite reach their final polish. Certainly it's time I got there!

Philosophizing aside, I still need to chain myself to my laptop and get to work.

Yes, that's what I'm going to do, right now . . . sit here and pluck away at my manuscript, until I see the progress on the page!


Monday, March 22, 2010

The Importance of Being Cheerful

At times, writing is pure bliss. It moves you, stirs you, touches you to the very core. Ideas flow, the writing just happens, and the results are terrific. At other times, of course, it's hard to find an idea, no words will come, and whatever you get down on the page is not worth the trouble of reading it. It's during those times that we have to remember to be cheerful.

When I write, I can be any number of persons. I can assume the identity of any of my characters, or the prospective Reader, or myself at any of many ages or stages of my life. When the writing gets tough, however, my inner baboon comes out. I prance around, posturing, beating my chest, proclaiming loudly that I am better than this, that my writing should never suffer the doldrums. My primitive instincts come out and I'm not a joy to be around.

I realize that writing is 99% unfathomable process and at least 1% grace. I have to hold on to that one percent. I have to remember to act with grace under pressure. I have to let go of my inner baboon and try my very best to act in a dignified and pleasant manner. It's best to approach my work with a can-do attitude. I should be cheerful, and approach my work in a cheerful manner, even if I don't feel like it.

Putting on a happy face ultimately helps us find the joy within us, which can only help us as we press on through the ups and downs of the writing process.


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

New Look

With Spring just a week away, I thought it was high time for a new look! For my blog, that is! I've lightened the page, inverted the colors (go figure), and decided to introduce images to help brighten things up a bit. I had to repost the last posting ("Spinning Wheels") a few times in order to make adjustments and get things situated right. At least now I know how to add the image and keep things aligned properly.

I think I also want to do something a little different with the content. My blog has gotten really BORING of late -- it bores me, too -- and that means I need to pep things up a little. I don't want to spend too much time blogging since I need the time for my writing, but I will try to find something at least mildly interesting to write about. This blog serves primarily as a way for me to keep myself motivated and focused, to keep on track over the long haul. However, I also have also used it to explore various aspects of the novel-writing process, and to share with my readers what I've learned along the way as I struggle to become a published author. I think I'll get back to the process comments, which were generally more interesting, and try to keep them on an even keel with the progress comments.

That's all for now, but I'll be back soon -- hopefully posting at least once a week again!


Spinning Wheels, Keeping At It

Hard to believe it's been so long since my last posting! It feels like I posted only a week ago. Time flies sometimes! I've been working at the present juncture in the story, where the plot transitions from the initial set-up to the middle of the book. I write, take it out, write it again, edit it, take it out, try again, over and over. I'm back in Chapter 7 and the word count is around 22k. I have several thousand words set aside from earlier progress that I can still draw from once I get past this juncture, but I have yet to feel I've got this part of the story "right".

Spending too much time in this one place is a sign I should just move on. I've been spinning my wheels and while things are better now, I'm losing momentum. I'm going to push on and let it stand as is, with its imperfections, and come back to it later for editing. I may just go ahead and break with the "3 steps forward, 2 steps back" approach that's been working so well up to now. I may just go ahead and blaze on through the rest of the story, to get it finished. I estimate another 40k to 45k words, maybe a little more. I want this to be a shorter novel, definitely no more than 70k. Momentum is important, and I've slowed this too much and am afraid I'll just set it aside if things don't get moving again. The story is still great, but I'm getting bored from too much repetition. I have to nurse myself along as well as the story.

One sign this is the case is I'm already dreaming about my next story. Boredom! Yet this present story is anything but boring. So, speed is now essential! I'll give myself permission to race ahead. After all, I can always go back. And back. And back.

By the way, Spring weather is arriving early. It's very much appreciated, but it leads to Spring Fever, which I want to avoid! Must finish manuscript, must finish manuscript! I will hold on and get this to completion -- I've seized the bull by the horns and I won't let go until this is ready to go out the door in whatever way I'm sending it out (just not to the garbage can).

Oh, and I've got a few ideas about what to do with it once it's done!

Keep on Writin',