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Posts Tagged ‘writing novels’

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’ve previously mentioned that when I get near the end of a book, my output increases dramatically. So it is with The Cosmic City. I’ve had no problem the last few days exceeding my daily quota, and a couple of times I’ve doubled it–or more. Tonight I passed it, as usual, setting down the first 850 words in a blaze of speed (about 30 minutes). Given that start, 1500 words should have been no problem, maybe more.

I tapped out at around 1350.

Now, this is normally an excellent night’s work for me, and I’m not ashamed of it. But I could have done better. And while I like to blame the waning cold bug that’s been swatting me about for days, or the sirens that whine at all hours unexpectedly, or the neighbors’ barking dogs, if I look myself straight in the mirror (don’t–can you really be sure who’s staring back?), I have to admit it’s just that I’m scared.

Not scared of finishing the book…scared I won’t do a good job. I’ve been building this thing up in my head for months now, and the Good Part is finally here: the hero is marshaling his forces for the ultimate battle, but–his forces? How did I collect so many characters, and what am I going to do with them all?*

I am, of course, a staunch advocate of the Bird by Bird method of first draft writing: They’re crap. They are, more specifically, disposable crap, not intended for the eyes of any other human being. In the lingo of my day job, they are a writer’s work product. And work product is an absolute privilege.

So why am I afraid? Why can’t I plunge on? Why do I stop myself and say, “Good enough for tonight,” when I know I could do better? It’s not like I can’t edit and rewrite and rewrite and edit for the rest of my life; it’s no one’s business but my own. I’m not under contract to anyone.

Except that I am. To myself, if no one else, and to others, if they read the book. I owe it to all of us to deliver the best, most slam-bang ending I can type out, and like every other writer, I’m afraid I’m not up to the task. So I sneak up on it. I may not get there as quickly as with a wild screaming charge, but I’ll get there. And probably with a wild screaming 3000-word charge at the end.

Because I want to see how this turns out as much as anybody.

*And since this is the end of the trilogy, I really need to wrap up all the character arcs in a burst of glory.

#SFWApro

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Baking a Book

Ya know how you read a really good novel, mysteries especially, but not necessarily, and in the end the author takes all those little bits and pieces and threads he’s been leaving lying around, and with a few magic passes he brings them all together into one big, cohesive ball and  you say, “My gosh, he’s been planning that all along! What a genius!” Yeah, well, maybe not so much.

See, the book you read is often not the book the author wrote. Aside from the fact that first drafts are never seen by anyone (unless you’re Shakespeare or Asimov), books don’t have to be written in order. They’re like movies, really; they can be created in any order that suits the creator. (You knew that, right? Movies are almost never shot in sequential scene order.)

Now I suspect that most writers start at the beginning and write through to the end. I do (almost invariably), but it doesn’t mean I don’t have an ending in mind long before most of the book is filled in, or even sketched in. I just don’t write the ending first because I use it as a carrot: Get to the end, and you get to write that scene you’ve been imaging all this time.

But–that doesn’t mean that everything goes swimmingly one to end to the other. Books are written in fits and starts. Even disciplined writers hit snags. And those brilliant plot lines that all come together at the end? They didn’t just magically lie down for the author as he went, rolling like a red carpet to its end. They came to him in bits and pieces, and sometimes he had to go back and change things to fit a new concept, and a lot of the time even the author doesn’t know how the threads will combine until they do. Writing a novel is like baking a cake; you can cover a lot of messy bits with enough frosting.

Great–now I don’t want to write any more. I want dessert.

#SFWApro

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