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Archive for August, 2017

Now that it’s all over, and I’ve had a few days (not enough) to think about it, what data can be culled from the research project called The Scent of Death?

Well, for one thing, it still doesn’t seem real. I have now written my tenth novel, and it doesn’t feel any different from when I finished the ninth; in fact, there is less of a sense of accomplishment. This is hardly surprising, since I put in only one-sixth of the time; TSD did not occupy a full year of my life, so I don’t feel so invested in it. (Oh no! One of my children is not as good as the rest! I am a bad parent, er, writer.) I suspect that after I’ve commissioned a cover and start taking pre-orders, that will change.

Second thing: When you write that much, that fast, it’s hard to turn off. I’m already in the pre- pre-planning stages of the next book, no. 3 in the Captain Swashbuckle series, entitled Dr. Scar. (I like “Dr.,” but it could be “Doctor,” if public sentiment swings that way.) Dr. Scar is intended to be a recurring villain, a really bad person whom Eric (for very good reasons) thought was dead. But then, Dr. Scar thought the same about him, so everybody’s gonna be surprised.

Third thing: As I’ve alluded to before, this newfound ability to write quickly may have a profound effect on my plans. I usually alternate between novels and short stories, for economic as well as practical reasons. But now the world is turned upside-down, the practical reasons have dwindled, and they may have dragged the economic ones with them. (This last, of course, remains to be seen.) Everything I’ve read, however (and I have seriously researched this question) tells me that you have to put in some heavy lifting, as in, you have to write several books, before you can see if you’re getting any traction. I have two, and Dr. Scar would make three. If I can keep a schedule, I figure I can be up to five by this time next year. If sales warrant it, I will keep going. If they don’t, well…next year’s an election year and maybe I’ll just run for office.

Putting all this data together, I have reached a conclusion: If you buy my books, and tell all of your friends to buy my books, I won’t have to run for office. Believe me, we will all be happier.

#SFWApro

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In an astonishing turn of events that will surprise absolutely no one who’s ever written a novel, I wrote the last 11,000 words this week. In fact, I wrote the final 7000 words this weekend. I think I wrote about 5000 words today. And it’s done. The first draft of The Scent of Death is in the can. 57,400 words in 55 days.

I blame it all on outlining. True to myself, I didn’t actually follow the outline, but I used it as a guide. If you were to read the outline, and the book, you wouldn’t find that the one varied from the other in any really important aspects.

But now I know that I can write a novel in far less time than I used to. (Fifty-seven thousand words is a short novel, too short to be commercially viable, but when you’re self-publishing, you can put those arbitrary constraints aside.) I thought the story would go at least 60,000 words, or a little more, and I was wrong. But since I’m the editor and the publisher, I forgive myself. Now, however, I know what’s possible. An 80,000-word novel might take three months, but it can be done, as long as I keep to a schedule.

What does this mean for my career path? There’s a good question. I may be a science fiction author, but I don’t know the future.

It’s going to be fun to find out, though. Tomorrow. Tonight I’m tired.

#SFWApro

 

 

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I recently, in the course of another discussion, asked parenthetically how authors can estimate their final word counts tens of thousands of words ahead (or even when they’re starting a story)? I guess the easy answer is that if you know roughly how much more plot you’ve got to shovel in, and you’ve done this long enough, you can figure out vaguely how many more words you’re going to need. And hey, it’s not like anybody’s keeping score. Like every other aspect of the writing process, it’s just you.

But that led me to a bigger question: How do you write a novel?

I don’t mean physically, and I don’t even mean by plotting v. pantsing. I mean–how are some people able to create stories that are tens (let alone hundreds) of thousands of words long? And even more to the point, how am I able to do that?

Let’s face it, big numbers usually means math, and I suck at math. I started having trouble when they introduced long division, and it hasn’t gotten any easier since. Any equation with more than one variable is a struggle, and taking calculus in college is, to this day, one of my greatest regrets. (And this is with a roommate studying engineering, and friends who majored in chemistry, astronomy, and physics.)

I understand that mathematics is a language, one that I don’t speak. At all. And yet. If you were to ask my science buddies (up to and including Ph.D.s) to write a 4000-word short story, their brains would fizzle like an android in a logic contest with Captain Kirk. I went to school with people who discovered planets, but write a short story? That ain’t happening.*

And yet I, who couldn’t master the first class needed to discover planets, can make them up wholesale. I can create worlds out of nothing. I created an entire future of the Earth from my own head. Nothing I create existed before I wrote it down, and I am almost 50,000 words into my latest creation. Think about that. Fifty thousand words.

And yet, I have no idea how it’s done. People ask, “Where do you get your ideas?” Like that’s the hard part. Ideas? I’ve got lots of ideas. Except how to stretch most of them into a story. Because I have no idea how that’s done. I do it; I’ve done it almost all my life, but I haven’t a clue how. And still, here I am, chugging away at 1500 words a day. Which is really mystifying, because a year ago I would have been satisfied with 500 words a day, 1000 on a real hot streak.

In the end, of course, some people are good at one thing, others another. This seems to be what I’m good at. But I grew up wanting to be a scientist, and that inner scientist isn’t going to rest until he figures out this problem.

Maybe if I keep at it, someday I’ll write a story that explains it all. Kind of like the programmers in “The Nine Billion Names of God.” I just hope it doesn’t end up destroying the universe.

 

*Yes, I know there are scientists who are also writers. I’m acquainted some of them. They require no explanation; they’re simply geniuses.

#SFWApro

 

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