Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Waiting for feedback

I've sent the manuscript out to a selected set of volunteers. Only heard back from one person so far but I am hoping to get more comments. Meanwhile I need to start prepping for a query letter to agents...

Monday, November 8, 2010

Editing - Novel 2

In a marathon session tonight of about 2 hours, I finished putting in my edits to the computer and did one last set of tweaks to the first few chapters. It's done! Hooray!

I'll now start sending copies out to people who have requested it, to hopefully get comments and criticism coming back in. I'll collect those for a few weeks (depending on how long it takes people to get a chance to read it) and after one final set of updates it will be time to start sending out query letters to agents.

This is a big step! I'm tired but very happy to have assembled a real first draft which is of good enough quality to be seen by others.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Editing - Novel 2

8 more pages tonight. It's not much, but every little bit gets me closer to the end.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Editing - Novel 2

47 pages in a bit over an hour tonight. 70-odd pages left - another 2 hours and I'll be done with this part! Hooray!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Editing - Novel 2

Another 20 pages in about half an hour tonight. Pace for this part seems to be 40 pgs/hour, roughly. Some pages have no edits to enter, while others take quite a while with dozens of changes marked down.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Editing - Novel 2

Got through another 40 pages tonight in a little under an hour. Excellent progress! I'm about halfway through. A few more sessions should get me where I need to be.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Editing - Novel 2

20 more pages worth of editing put into the computer.

I'm spotting a few more things as I go through, and disagreeing with some of my earlier comments, but all in all I'm getting a lot of good changes in place. I use commas too much! I end up with some sentences that are too long, and I've been chopping several into pieces which seems to make the paragraph as a whole flow a bit better.

The editing is keeping the length steady at about 96,000 words, which is around where I expect it will end up staying. I have some thoughts on places I could add more if I wanted, but I expect I won't do so unless the length drops significantly after C&C from friends. That might be the time that I chop out whole sections and do one last pass to try and tighten up the prose before sending it in with queries to agents.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Editing - Novel 2

Got from page 37 to 62 tonight in entering my editing changes into the computer. This should go much faster than the actual editing process. My biggest challenge right now is setting aside the time to sit at the computer and put things in. It takes a surprising amount of energy, but that's probably due to the way I did the edits initially - there's a lot of places where I simply marked a phrase or word as sub-optimal, and now I'm doing the mental work of figuring out just what would go better there.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Editing - Novel 2

Hooray! Just finished (finally!) the first round of editing comments as noted in the last post. Now I need to go through them all with the computer and put them into the soft copy. After that ... it's time to start sending it around.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Editing - Novel 2

This first round of editing is tough stuff! I'm making progress - slowly - but getting good comments down.

I'm following someone's advice and have a printed copy that I'm reading to myself out loud and making notes with as I go. I'm about halfway through, then once I finish I'll need to update the "real" copy with all of the notes and comments. It's a real pain in the butt but it's very important; there's plenty of things that I'm finding need correction.

Probably my biggest single issue is repetition. I'll write two paragraphs and use the same word or expression in both, when I should really be going back to something different either the first or the second time. Many of these I'm just noting for now and will update when I put my editing comments back into the computer.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Writing - Novel 2

Aaaaaand... the first draft is finished! 95,947 words.

I'll do a pass of heavy revision and consistency editing, then it will be time to pass it off to F&F for first comments. It's a great feeling to be through the biggest chunk, though!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Writing - Novel 2

86,736 to 89,027 in about an hour. The big confrontation set up over the second half of the book has begun, and lots of exciting action is taking place. Explosions are soon to come, lots and lots of explosions. Hooray!

edit: ... and up to 95,087 over a couple more hours. That's it! There's a few more paragraphs to tie things up nicely, but the story is done. Phew! Time to start the real editing and backfilling next writing session.

And yes, there were plenty of explosions in the last few dozen pages.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Writing - Novel 2

85,671 to 86,736 this evening in a short 30 minute session. I realized that my protagonist really is going to need a certain skill by the end of the novel, and that he really had the opportunity to practice it during the course of the book... but I didn't have anything about it! So I went back through and poked here and there at the appropriate places... and voila, he can suddenly speak (albeit badly) a new language! Hooray!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Writing - Novel 2

82,298 to 84,373 in about an hour. The aforementioned twist seems to have worked out all right, adding a bit of tension and a good chance for our protagonist to show off some of the things he's learned during his journey. I am having to work a bit to keep red tape and bureaucracy from invading the pages, just based on where the story is right now. It's not exciting and engaging to hear about pages of debate and council meetings, even though it is what would happen in "real life" as it were. Instead, we'll be skipping past that crap and summing it up in a few paragraphs (if that) so we can keep going on to the more interesting bits. Time to get the concluding scenes started!

edit: Up to 85,671 after  another 40 minutes.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Writing - Novel 2

80,674 to 82,298 in about 45 minutes. The story has taken an unexpected twist near the end that I hadn't put into the outline, so I'm unsure how it will work out - but it seems to be going all right so far. If I end up keeping it - and I think I will by this point - I'll have to throw in some foreshadowing early on in the book so that it makes a bit more sense. It does allow our protagonist another way to show some growth over the course of his adventures, though, so I think it will be a good addition overall.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Writing - Novel 2

About an hour and a quarter or so of progress; 78,224 to 80,674.

Revision - Novel 2

Now that my life has settled down from the craziness of the last few months, I'm getting back into this novel and am determined to finish it. I did a full sweep from beginning to end of what's currently written, making minor revisions and wording changes along the way. Now it's time to start writing again and finish the third and final "act" of the novel, which is perhaps 20% done. The heroes of the story are nearing their final challenge, and there are only a few big scenes left before the story reaches its conclusion.

It's always interesting to see how a story evolves as you write it. The outline I originally wrote got progressively more vague as it reached towards the ending of the book, and there are plenty of places where the story was changed from the outline along the way. While you can still recognize the major structure, there are pretty big chunks that got cut out and some new side threads that got added along the way.

After revisions, the current word count is 78,224.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Writing - Novel 2

76,331 to 77,763 in about 45 minutes tonight. Continuing to march forward towards the final scenes of the book.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Hey, what happened to April?

Unfortunately, April was overflowing with other responsibilities and I had little time to write. As we get into May I will be trying to get this book finished up.

74,289 to 76,331 today.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Tuesday, March 30, 2010


Something I've consciously chosen to try with this novel is to effect a very specific pacing. It's basically alternating dialogue/slow action chapters with high action/conflict chapters. There's some conflict in each chapter, of course, otherwise it gets boring quickly - "the trees were bright green" description for an entire chapter gets old fast - but with my outline this works out well.

Here's an example. Let's say our heroes are on a mission to find the mystical foobar. We'll start off by having them talk about why it's important to find the foobar, and set out on their mission. Then, they run into a nasty storm and have to fight their way through it in a gripping, life-or-death situation! After that, they get to a town and ask around for the location of the foobar, and some of the heroes show their flaws by (verbally) fighting with the group's leader. Next up, they move on to the location of the foobar, and encounter the foobar's guardian in a big showdown!

My hope is that this keeps readers interested and gives good opportunities for character development. We'll see how it works out, but so far it seems to be pretty good. I'm at 29 chapters right now; my expectation is that the book will end at about 38-40. It's not precisely alternating "one chapter slow, one chapter fast" but it's close enough that the pacing seems to work out.

What comes next?

I've been asked what comes next for this book, and what it means to say that I'm at "67000 words" (or whatever).

A novel is considered something over 75000 words, and once you get up to about 150000 or so it becomes an "epic" (aka a really big novel). I'm aiming for something like 100000 words; my first book was about 105000 when it was done. So if I say I'm at 67,000 words I'm about 67% of the way done on the first draft.

But the last half of the book usually seems to go faster than the first, for me. I've got the outline done; I know where things are going in my head, it's just getting them on paper. That speeds things up - for me, at least.

Once I'm done with the first draft, I'll do a first editing run on the computer. This is where I do major changes - pulling out entire scenes or chapters, rearranging events, ripping out unneeded exposition, backfilling details and clues to match up with later parts of the book.

Next I'll print out the whole manuscript and go over it on paper with a pen. Here, I'll look for issues with phrasing, tense, pacing, etc. that I didn't catch on the screen. Sentences will get rearranged or cut. Description will be added. Things like that.

After I do those edits, I'll be ready to send the manuscript out to people who have asked to be on the F&F review list. Hopefully they'll get comments back to me relatively quickly :) I won't agree with all of the feedback, of course, but they're good pointers as to what needs to be updated (and if several people tell me the same thing that I don't want to hear, I'll probably decide I need to listen to it anyways!).

At some point, I'll even pick a title!

Writing - Novel 2

65,471 - 68,646
11:40a - 1:02p

and... 68,646 - 70,939
11:29p - 12:18a

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Writing - Novel 2

64083 - 65,471
4:20 pm - 5:10 pm

Did some editing as well on the way through, not just writing. The last couple of weeks have been very busy, but I hope to get some good days in over the next few weeks.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Writing - Novel 2

61564 - 64083
3:43pm - 4:50pm

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Writing - Novel 2


Friday, March 5, 2010

Writing - Novel 2

56,268 after pulling out the outline/unneeded prologue/etc. Wrote from 11:45am to 1:11pm and got it back up to 59,891.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Writing - Novel 2

57949 to 59949, 1:07 pm to 1:57 pm. 2000 words exactly. How did I do this today and exactly 3000 the other day? I don't know! It's craaaaaaaaazy!

It's also about time for another editing pass. I think the time has come to rip out the background info, dropped scenes, and outline into its own document, which will give me a more realistic word count (probably dropping me back 3000 words or so, but that's not a bad thing), because I'm not referring back to them regularly any more - the story has its own momentum and I know what's left in the outline well enough that I just need to glance at it once every other writing session or so.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Writing - Novel 2

7:34 pm to 8:32 pm
55056 to 57949

Writing - Novel 2

51130 to 55056, 1:25pm to 2:49pm. Making more good progress. I want to finish the first draft by the end of March, and finish edits and reviews by F&F (friends and family) by the end of April (hopefully sooner for both steps) to start sending it out to agents by May 1.

If you're interested in taking a look at the first draft and sending back suggestions/reviews, drop me an email or a note here.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Writing - Novel 2

49445 to 51130, about 45 minutes from 11:30 to 12:15.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Writing - Novel 2

46445 to 49445 (exactly 3000, somewhat oddly). About 10:45 to 11:50am.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Writing - Novel 2

44237 to 46011, from about 11:45 to 12:35pm.

46445 after some updates to the outline, bringing the outline up to the end of the story. Yay! The story framing is done, and the writing is nearly halfway. Things should really start speeding up from here.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Writing - Novel 2

40392 to 43,277. About an hour's worth on Friday, 8pm to 9pm.

A little bit more tonight - only 15 minutes or so - up to 44,237.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Writing - Novel 2

37137 to 40392. 11:30pm to 12:30am. Good stuff, much progress!

I'm heading out on Friday night to a cabin at a nearby state park to camp out and enjoy being out in a bit more of the wilds. Hopefully I'll also get the urge to do some writing while I'm there.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Writing - Novel 2

As expected, I pulled the scene I wrote the other day. Instead, I took things in a somewhat different direction today, and got to another major milestone in the outline. Now things really start to happen in the story.

34711 (though 1700 of that doesn't count, as I just copied the cut scene off in case I wanted to use part of it later, where it fits better) to 37,137. 12:10 to 12:50, things went quickly today as I knew right where I wanted to go.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Writing - Novel 2

12:00 to 12:45, 33029 to 34711. Stopping early because I'm not sure about the scene I just wrote. It seems a bit... well, out of place or overly sappy. Might just have to do with my own emotional state of mind tonight, which is kind of a no-no as far as I'm concerned. When I let that filter into my writing, I end up with one section that has a different tone than the rest, and it always seems jarring. So I'll let it sit overnight and read it over tomorrow, and might end up chopping most of it out for a replacement. Sometimes that's how the process goes!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Writing - Novel 2

About 1:30 to 3:30, but lots of interruptions and breaks in the middle. Also includes my editing from the previous post. 31,006 to 33,029.

For reference, that also includes the outline, prologue (which will not be in the actual book) and some chopped paragraphs that might or might not get put back in later. So the actual book text is probably about 3,000 words less than that right now.

Editing - Novel 2

The scissors come out for the first time!

I took a quick pass through the first chapter and cut pretty ruthlessly. I did this with the plan of cutting the prologue entirely. Backstory - bah! I should be able to tell everything I need to as the story progresses. Besides, this lets me keep a few more mysteries for later in the story and let the protagonists figure them out as they go. Keeps things more interesting all around.

I do like this pattern, though - writing an expository prologue/intro, then going into the first few dozen pages, then going back and ripping out the exposition section. It makes things go right into more active settings, and gives me a reference background as I'm starting the story that holds more backstory detail than the outline.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Writing - Novel 2

1pm to about 2pm today. 26,672 to 29,309.

And then 1:15ish am to about 2am. 29,309 to 31,006.

Based on the outline for this story, I'd guess that I'm just shy of a third of the way through, so it looks like I'm right on target for 100,000 words or so. For reference, The Crypts of Denver came out to about 106,000.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Writing - Novel 2

Another stint of writing before I'm headed out for the weekend tomorrow (well, today now!). Started at about 11:15, went until 12:30ish. Went from 24,000 words (added some to the outline yesterday) to 26,672.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Did some writing tonight.

About 11 PM to 12:45 AM. Went from about 19,500 words on my current project to 23,661. Hit another milestone on the outline.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The mechanics of writing

I find that I have trouble writing if I'm not at least partially in the right mood. That means being relaxed, not too stressed over real life issues, and willing to be open to new ideas as they come in.

Usually when I sit down to write I'll reread the existing manuscript for at least a few pages leading in to where I'm writing. If I don't do this, I find that I have trouble keeping the same tone that has been established for the book so far. Every few writing sessions I'll go through and reread the whole thing, making small edits and consistency updates along the way. Obviously these full rereads happen less often as the manuscript grows, but they should be happening now and then all the way up until it's finished. This really makes a difference for me in making sure that I don't have problems with some detail established early on that becomes more important later in the story. I also have learned to be willing to revise existing sections - sometimes extensively - to insert a detail like this when I realize that I really needed to establish something earlier in the story.

I normally write for 1 to 2 hours at a time. In general I find that I put down approximately 2,000 words in an hour, give or take a few. This is the equivalent of typing 33 words per minute (wpm) for 60 minutes (or more) straight. In reality, it means that I'm writing in bursts of 60-70 wpm, then taking a bit to revise what I just put down or think about the next passage. There's some short breaks in that hour as well. Sometimes it goes faster, sometimes slower - you never know until it's done.

I use an HP laptop that I also use for playing games and watching movies occasionally. It's big for a laptop - I can't type effectively on anything that's less than a full-sized keyboard, thanks to my finger size - but I like being able to pick it up and move to a more comfortable place on the couch, or head out camping, or whatever when it feels right to do so.

The downside to typing on a laptop is that it's definitely less ergonomic. I have a lap bench thing I use at home, but there's no cushions for my wrists and I make sure to take frequent breaks to stretch my arms and make sure I'm not stiffening them up too much. Even so, a well set up desk would be a better setup, and at some point if I get published and move towards doing this long-term I'll probably move back to my desktop for writing when I'm at home.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Crypts of Denver

The first manuscript I actually finished was "The Crypts of Denver". It was inspired by one of my many strange dreams; one that I remembered well enough to take some notes on.

Some of the elements that contributed towards the manuscript actually getting finished (in no particular order):

- a strong drive to finish it, from the moment I woke up after having the dream
- steady support from my wife to keep writing
- setting aside time to write regularly
- writing out the outline for what would happen very early on in the process, even though things changed dramatically as I went on
- being a very fast writer when I know where I'm going

It took me about a year and a half to finish the manuscript, though that was more due to the rest of my life than the writing. The great majority of it was finished in 3 months once I started making more time available for it. After that experience, I'm pretty confident that I could finish the first draft of a novel from start to finish within 3 months without stressing. I picked up a lot of lessons along the way.

I started sending the novel out for queries to agents - very slowly. Rejection letters are tough, but the first person I queried (Nathan Bransford) was extremely helpful and sent some quick notes as to why he rejected the partial. If nothing else, I was certainly pleased to have rated a partial on my very first query. It's been quite some time since then (I didn't query for it for about a year), and though I've rewritten the opening extensively I'm not sure if I want to requery on it to the same people I originally did or not. More likely, I'll wait until I finish my next novel before querying again.

What starts the writing?

I started writing snippets of novels when I was a teenager. For years I collected bits and bobs of ideas - many of them which would never get anywhere, a few which got to 15 or 20 pages - until the inevitable hard drive crash wiped a bunch out. I'm still bummed that some of those ideas got lost; sure, the writing was probably pretty bad, but it's the *idea* that I miss.

Since then, I've made sure to keep things regularly backed up in a safe(r) location, and years later I'm once again sitting on a folder full of story ideas. A surprising amount have 20 to 50 pages worth of text, though there's plenty with just a few pages, or even just a few sketchy ideas and no real writing done yet.

This has led me to realize just how hard it is to actually finish something. Not because I get stuck partway through (though that happens) or I lose interest in the initial idea (yep, that happens too) but more often because I get another new idea and zoom off on that one. This means that eventually I go look at my writing folder and realize that I don't recognize half of the things I wrote about until I reread them and remember "oh yeah, that's what I was writing about!"

Of course, the reason to keep these around is that sometimes I *do* go back and work on things again. Occasionally I'll go through my files, see which one pulls at me the most, and throw a few more pages at it to see what sticks. Sometimes I keep going on it, sometimes not.