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Posts Tagged ‘amwriting’

Bottom line: After two (four-day) weeks of 2000 words/day as my goal, I have written 16,147 words. So far, so good! I will not say it’s been easy (hence the four-day work week), because it takes up all of what I would otherwise refer to as “my free time,” but oddly, it’s finding the time that’s difficult; the writing has been surprisingly easy.

Oh, I do it in fits and starts, and (real) Internet research has led to some (unnecessary) Internet “research,” and there are points every evening when I think, “Maybe I’ll cut myself some slack tonight. I have a few extra words banked from last night,” but so far I’ve managed to get past that (except last night. Last night I stopped at 1400. I was wiped.)

I don’t know how I can do this on some projects and not others. It definitely has to do with outlining. The one time I tried something like this on the fly, I wrote 6000 words in two days and burned myself out for a week. But the one time I’ve worked for hire (and thus using an outline someone else imposed on me), I cranked out 2000 words a night without any trouble (which is what inspired me to try it this time).

Obviously, then, it’s not a matter of typing too much (although with this and my day job, I worry about that). It’s more a matter of mental exhaustion. (So, yeah, four days on, three days off.) If I do this again, I will throttle it back to 1500 wds/day. It’s less about the daily word count and more about avoiding those long stretches of writer’s block that come from not knowing where you’re going.

So that’s where I am, and I wouldn’t be doing my duty if I didn’t remind you that this is a sequel to The Choking Rain, available on Smashwords and Amazon.* While you’re there, check out my other books as well, and if you’re one of those sainted people who’s already bought one, please consider giving me a review on Amazon. You have no idea how important those are (to any author).

So in two weeks, will I be at the half-way mark, or will I be a gibbering mass of dangling participles huddling in a corner?

Beats me, I haven’t outlined that far yet.

 

*Current leader in the title race is The Scent of Death. I’m still taking suggestions.

#SFWApro

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I’ve never really tried writing to an outline before, but now I’ve outlined the sequel to The Choking Rain, provisionally titled Something in the Air (but very much subject to change), and I’ve spent the last two evenings writing the first 4300 words. The idea is to write 2000 words a night, which would bring in the first draft before Labor Day.

I hadn’t planned to write another novel so soon; the idea was to concentrate on short fiction this year. But after a couple of tries (and one completion), the Muse wasn’t hanging around. “Well,” I thought, “no plan to do something is good if it keeps you from doing anything,” so I allowed myself to think about writing another book–but only if I could get it done quickly. None of this “twelve months and a bit” this time. None of this foundering in the middle trying to figure out how the plot was going to get from A to Z. (A and Z are easy. It’s L, M, and N that will kill you.)

So I tried outlining, and surprisingly, it wasn’t tough. (I’ve had this idea for a long time, so that helped.) I had the outline done in half the time I had allotted, including details for the first dozen chapters, so I started even sooner than I thought I would. So far, I’m 300 words ahead of schedule. We’ll see how tonight goes.

I’ll keep you all updated every week or so, unless I fall completely behind, in which case I will close this page and start writing under an assumed name, something with fewer expectations. I’m leaning toward “Will Shakespeare,” since no one thinks he ever wrote anything anyway…

#SFWApro

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I’ve always been what they call a “pantser,” which is to say I write by the seat of my pants. Now, I know, from one experience in writing in someone else’s universe, that outlining can increase my output dramatically, but it never seemed to work for me. I tried it to a degree in The Cosmic City, and it helped keep me moving, but it didn’t achieve the results a true outline can bring. And so far as writing short stories is concerned…forget it.

But I’ve been blocked lately from writing much of anything, so much that when a couple of my friends asked me, a week apart, if I was writing anything I had to admit that, no, nothing specific at the moment. (Although yes, I was and am still writing.)* Okay, I thought, I was going to concentrate on shorts this year, but if you’re not writing, you’re not writing. Even writing something that may never turn a dime is better than sitting around feeling like a lump.

So I grabbed an old idea I had, a sequel to The Choking Rain, and I started noodling with it. I thought, outlining is easy, and it counts as writing. If I get stuck or inspired by something else, it’s easy to put aside. On the other hand, if I could create an outline in say, eight weeks, I could probably have a book written before Halloween. That’s about half what it usually takes. Not a bad use of my time whatever happens, and I can still spend the last two months of the year writing short stories (which have a better chance of selling).

An outline for a 60,000-word novel means (given my typical chapter length), setting up 40 chapters. If I were shooting for an eight-week schedule, that would average five chapters a week, or one a day. (I don’t work weekends.)

In two days’ work, I have outlined eight chapters.

Now, they will get harder. I haven’t created any real characters yet, only cut-outs, and characters are hard. But then again, they don’t need to be fleshed-out at this point. And if I can even approach four chapters a day, I can finish the outline in two weeks.

That means I could be writing a new novel by the end of the month, and finished before Labor Day. My previous record is just over a year (albeit that was 85,000 words).

I’d better start designing a cover.

 

*Why do people who have known you for decades, and have always known you as a writer, ask if you’re “still writing”?

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I caught myself tonight thinking, “I really hope I get a sale soon!” Because it’s been, you know, four weeks.

Really, self? This is what’s it’s come to? You went (mumbledy-mumbledy) years before you sold a story, then it was every couple of years, and now you get withdrawal symptoms if you don’t sell one every month?

Gee, you’d think you were trying to make a living at this or something. I’ve figured out the problem: Writing stories is compulsive, but selling stories is addictive.

I’m not trying to toot my own horn here. I’m not bragging because I sell half a dozen stories in a year (okay, last year it was ten). There are a lot of people out there who sell a lot more than I do and to better-paying markets, as well. (And I’m not even terribly jealous of all of them. Some of them are my friends. Them I’m only a little jealous of.) It’s just that I find it amusing how quickly one can go from, “Lord, please let me sell one story before I die,” to “For heaven’s sake, I haven’t had one sale since last month!”

So if you’re a pre-published author, let me make two points: (1) I feel you. I remember what it was like, and I hope that you don’t have to work as long as I did to start selling; and (2) Don’t think once you sell it’s all wine and roses. You just trade your problems for new problems. Nicer problems, I’ll grant you…

…but there still isn’t a Hugo on my mantelpiece. And I haven’t made a single sale since I started writing this post.

#SFWApro

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I’m sitting looking at a picture of an original Star Wars movie poster–and when I say Star Wars, I mean Star Wars, not A New Hope. I put the “old” in old-school; I saw Star Wars the night it premiered–because I saw the poster featured on “Antiques Roadshow,” and I thought the appraiser under-valued it, so I looked it up. And now I’m looking at it, and I see three pretty much unknown actors listed, followed by Peter Cushing and Alec Guinness, who were anything but unknown. It follows that George Lucas paid a pretty penny to get them. Which leads to the question:

What did he think he was doing?

I don’t mean that pejoratively, as in, “Was he crazy, spending that kind of money on a space opera?” I mean, really, what did he think he was accomplishing? What do any of us think we’re accomplishing when we write a story or make a movie or paint a painting? And more to the point, should we be proud of what we’ve done?

You look at Star Wars now, and it’s gone way past “global phenomenon.” But back in the day, we didn’t know it would do that. Certainly when that grandiose poster was printed, nobody knew if the darn thing was going make a dime. It could easily have been laughed out of the theater–and would have, if it hadn’t made so much money. So it’s easy to say now, “That’s something George Lucas can be proud of!” But what about before?

You’d hope no creative person would release story or movie  that he wasn’t proud of, but we know that’s not the case. (Where there’s a buck, there’s a way. And someone who is proud of it–proud of making a buck, anyway.) But is that legitimate? Are we allowed to be proud of a story if no one ever publishes it? I mean, seriously, are we allowed to be proud of a story that sucks? Are we allowed to be more proud of it if someone publishes it–and then it wins a Hugo? On the other hand, are we allowed to be proud of writing a story that wins a Hugo–even if we ourselves don’t think it was worthy?

It is said that, “Pride goeth before a fall.” But it’s also said, “Don’t submit a story you wouldn’t want others to read.” So pride is bad, but without it, nobody knows you exist. And in the end, you may be the only person who even thinks you should be proud of what you’ve done–which sounds like a great recipe for a fall to me.

I sent a story yesterday to a major magazine. I had real hopes for it. I was proud of it. I thought this could be my chance to break into a new market. I went to bed happy. Fifteen hours later, it came back. A form letter, not even a personal note. I was proud, now I’m fallen.

But I sent it out again immediately. Because I’m proud of it? No. (Although I am.) I sent it out again because I like it. And that’s even more important. You can be proud of doing a job well even if it’s a job you don’t like. But to do a job well enough that you like it, well, that’s something to be proud of.

#SFWApro

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I just finished writing about 500 words. I should have written more, but I’m writing longhand, and you can only go so long before you have to take a break. Besides, I’m up to the point where I have to make a point, and I’m not sure how I’m going to do it. But I will.

When you’re really going, writing seems almost automatic. You don’t really have to pay attention to what you’re doing. It’s like driving, where  you can watch the road and listen to the radio and think about what you’re going to do when you get to work, all at the same time. (And like driving, you can’t write while you’re on the phone.)

I don’t think I had noticed that before tonight. At the same time the words were unspooling, I was able to look at them almost objectively (never totally objectively). As I watched myself scribble them (and scribble is the right word, believe me), I marveled at (a) how they arranged themselves so neatly, and (b) how good they looked. Not that I claim to be Shakespeare by any means; it’s just that I can still recall how I used to write years ago, and the difference is profound. But I wonder if the real miracle isn’t either of those things, but rather how I was able to separate my brain into two parts, one writing and one watching. Usually when you write, your brain is separated into “writer” and “editor,” and the toughest part is stuffing a sock into the editor’s mouth so the writer can work. This wasn’t that. The observer did make a few cogent suggestions, which were followed, but mostly he let the writer work. It was he who found the whole process amazing. (The writer was too busy to care.)

Oddly enough, now that I’m blogging, the two halves seem more in partnership. I stop and edit more, and the writer doesn’t mind having the editor peer over his shoulder. It’s a funny thing.

It’s a funny way to live, if you think about it. Writer vs. Editor. And then there’s Marketing Manager… Thank goodness they’ve got him locked in the closet for the duration.

#SFWApro

 

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It’s one of those times when the ideas just won’t come. I finished The Cosmic City a few weeks ago and gave myself some time off (well, I edited and formatted and published and promoted it, if that’s what they mean by time off). Then I tried to get back into writing, and I wrote a little vignette and immediately shelved it because it wasn’t really what I was trying to say. So I rewrote it as a completely new story over a couple of days, and now it’s incubating before submission.

So now what to do? I’m happiest when I have a project, a direction to go. (That’s the nice part about writing novels, but then you only have one product to sell, and if it doesn’t, you’re out of luck.) I thought this story would give me a direction for a few days, but it wrote itself too darned fast and now I’m afloat again. And it’s hard.

It’s hard because I’m hard on myself. I’m in the “you should write every day,” camp, but I don’t. Even the waiter at dinner tonight at our favorite hang-out was talking about how he’s worked on his screenplays for 50 days straight. Fifty days in a row of at least three pages. I admire him. I envy him. I want to slap him. (Lousy so-and-so, how dare he make me feel so bad?) I left him a big tip.

The truth is, sometimes you can’t write. Sometimes you have to extend that vacation a while. If the ideas aren’t there, they just aren’t. (I actually have a couple, but they’re so embryonic I have to leave them in the neonatal ICU until they’re stronger.) And until then, or until something else comes along, you need to do something different, change your routine: you need to relax.

Finishing and publishing The Cosmic City–the conclusion of a trilogy, no less–was a peak. You can’t jump from peak to peak. You have to cross the valley between them first. There will always be another peak to climb, even if right now it’s hidden by the clouds.

#SFWApro

 

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