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Archive for the ‘Novel Plans’ Category

My Goals… And Speed.

I feel I should clarify my goals and my writing speed.  Dean’s already warned me to keep my mouth shut in public about how much or how fast I write, and while I’ll probably take his advice and be more vague at Cons and such, this is my blog and I’m not a prevaricating kind of girl *grin*.

First, my goals are just that.  Mine.  They certainly don’t reflect anything but how I want to go about pursuing writing as my career.  I’ve never been a “kinda” person.  I learned to win at poker by playing 2 cent/4 cent limit online 15-20 hours a day, everyday for weeks while reading every source on poker that I could get my hands on (And I still graduated college, a miracle!).  I did this because I liked poker, I was broke, and I hate being crappy at things (and broke).  I took that same mentality to my jobs over the years, too, and it got me stressed-out with 70 work weeks.  I’m not saying it is always a good mindset, this all or nothing.  But it’s mine, and that’s how I am, so I deal with it.

Writing is the same way for me.  I spent 20 years writing stories, showing very few to anyone because I was certain they sucked (and they did, they really did) and very very frustrated that I couldn’t improve.  I was trapped in the “real writers are re-writers” myth and going nowhere.

Then I basically said “fuck it”, applied to an MFA program, started writing more, realized the MFA program was not at all for me (but I learned some tricks and made a couple friends in one of the workshops at the least, so it wasn’t a total waste).  Then I discovered Heinlein’s Rules, had a writer friend point me to Dean Wesley Smith’s website, and suddenly (or so it seemed), I started improving.  Because I was writing. I was writing a lot (well, a lot more anyway).  New stuff. Not picking over draft after draft, but just taking what I thought worked and trying it again. And again. And again.

Writing all this new stuff has opened methods of practicing things I’d never gotten to really try before.  Picking over the same old story again and again didn’t let me try out the techniques I found in the books I love.  But writing a new story did.  I could take that story and write it with Donald E. Westlake’s surprising way of describing things in mind.  Or with Terry Brook’s way of making you love a character and then twisting the knife.  Or Elizabeth Moon’s way of making kick-ass seem normal and flawed and still cool.  Or Michael Connelly’s way of making each victory both awesome and Pyrrhic. Or George RR Martin’s epic feel. I could go on and on.  Writing new stuff lets me practice these things over and over, and if I fail it isn’t a teeth-grinding ordeal anymore because I know that I can just try to fail differently (fail better?) next time instead of knowing I now have to spend the next six months of my life editing and rewriting the failed story.

So, how this relates to speed is two-fold.  One, I want to be the best damn writer I’m capable of being at any given point in time.  The more practice I get in, the better I’ll get (hopefully).  Second, I have a crazy brain full of a million things all the time and writing is the best way I’ve found to let off the pressure.  The faster I write, the sooner I’ll finish any one thing and be able to start another, and the more quiet I might gain inside my head.  So between the two, and for my goals, I want to get faster and more consistent.  For me, because that’s the way I work.

I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to work up to full eight-hour days writing (which would get me 7,500 to 10,000 words done) because I am also crazy about other things like reading and gaming (rpgs and videogames).  But I do hope to be able to consistently write multiple books a year as well as keep a goodly number of shorts circulating.  And I want to keep my level of practice up, because every time I open a book it seems I find some new thing or idea or technique I want to try in my own work.

So basically to sum up:  I want to get faster with my writing because writing lots is how I practice and I want to practice as much as I can (and hopefully someday sell as much as I can, cause hey, this *is* my career, after all).  That’s it, I’m just long-winded at 4am I guess.

Getting Over Lazy

I’ve been writing a fair amount in the last month, but when I looked at the results in terms of finishing projects, it doesn’t look so good.  I’ve finished two things in the last month. Two.  Not exactly on target with where I want to be by the end of the year.  It’s time to quit being lazy and work on the second of Heinlein’s Rules: finish what you write.

It’s easy for me to finish short stories generally.  Once I’m writing one, I tend to just get it done (usually within one or two sittings).  Novels are tougher to finish, though the endings so far of them are a lot easier than the beginnings and middles.  I’ve been tinkering between two novels lately, getting some done on each but not really making huge progress with either.  Part of this is fear.  Once I’m done, I have to send it out.  I’ve worked out a way to overcome that fear by putting together the package for each novel before I finish, so at least that part of the work will be done so I can just focus on getting the book done.

The other part of this is just sheer laziness.  I like to work in bursts, when stuff “comes” to me because I’m lazy and making my brain focus and compose is annoying if I’m not in the mood.  Yep, just lazy.  I know it is laziness because if I have deadlines (real or imagined), I have no problem dumping the “must be in the mood” and getting the work done.  I think I can combat my current lazy with some good old habit-forming.  I like to take days off writing, but for the next while, I’m not going to.  I think I need to build up a nice streak, get in the habit of not letting myself take days off (usually I justify days off because I know I *can* write 10k words in a day to catch up if I have to).  So starting today, I’m going to get in at least 3,900 words of fiction a day at least 6 days a week, with the seventh day goal being 1,250 words.  At that pace I should be able to finish everything I want to finish by the end of the year.  It really doesn’t help that I keep adding things I’d like to finish to my project list.

When I started out this year, I was thinking I’d write four novels and get to 30 or so short stories out to markets.  Then I kept having novel ideas, so it turned into five novels.  Then because of a conversation at one of the workshops, I decided I was going to aim for 80 short stories on top of that.  I’ve since revised that down to 40 or so shorts, not because I don’t think I could write 80, but because at 27 I’m already a little sick of the admin work of keeping track of them so I don’t accidentally sim-sub or something that I think 40-50 will be the max I want to track at a time (and it’ll be a level that, god forbid, if I start selling some, I can replace them).  And on top of that, the novel ideas just keep pouring in.  I’ve shunted four over to next year already.  I’m aiming at seven this year (two of which are shorter, one 50k, one 65-75k).  Frankly, I’d love to slow down, but my brain won’t let me.  See why I can’t afford to continue being fearful and lazy?  I don’t have time!  At the least I’ll be getting a lot of practice in and hopefully improving.

Current projects and current word count:

MG novel- ~12k

Suspense/Crime novel- ~8k

Sci/fi novel- ~7k

Sekrit Experiment project- ~1k

Paranormal Mystery, Horror Western, Irish Historical, and Regency Romance- no words yet

Also have one novella that stands at ~1300 words and another that had nearly 5k on it (which I haven’t touched in a year since I really need to redraft the whole beginning, grr).

So… plenty to finish.  I should get on that.

From Short to Long

I seriously need to stop writing short stories for the moment and get some real work done on my novels.  I’ve been poking at the novels a little, 500 words here, 1000 words there.  That would be fine if I wanted to write one or two books a year.  But I don’t.  I intend to write five.

Short stories are so satisfying, however.  I can start and end in the same sitting and have a finished product in relatively few hours.  Writing a novel takes more time, a lot more.  Even at my fastest typing speed while composing new words (I think I’ve written about 1500 words in an hour before), I couldn’t write a novel in a day, much less in the 4-7 hours a short story generally takes me.  I think if I absolutely had to, I could write a novel in about 7-8 days (novel here being defined as at least 85-90k words).  I’ve written 13k words in a day before, but my hands and tendons were not my biggest fan afterward.

I’ve been trying to write short stories and novels at the same time, and really, I just end up doing short stories because it still counts as writing in my brain and they are much more satisfying in the short run.  But the novels have to get done  for me to stay on goal this year (and on goal for my career plans).  So after this week (because I have three story ideas that HAVE to get done right now according to my brain), I’m done with short fiction until a couple of those novels get out the door.  Three more stories will put my total up to 29 on submission, which is respectable I think.

Then, longer stuff.  I think I can finish my middle grade novel by the end of may if I buckle down next week.  After that I’ll have five or six weeks to finish my thriller novel before I leave on vacation in July.  Then I plan to use July as a break month and write a more short stories before August when I’ll hopefully complete another (shortish) novel.  I figure Sept and October I can get another novel done, leaving Nov and Dec to finish the fifth novel, as well as more short stories.  Looking at the numbers and knowing I need to get novel writing done, I’m thinking I won’t hit 80 short stories out by the end of the year.  But five novels will make me happy and I think I can still manage to get 50 or so shorts out by January.

Of course, in the middle of this I’ve decided to take on another project that will be a giant experiment (and I’m not going to jinx myself by talking about it too much here).  I will say that I’ve been doing a lot of research into getting multiple streams of income going and have an idea for something that might or might not pay off.  But it will be awesome to write, so that’s a perk already.

Ok, time to get some words done on a short story or my middle grade.  I have the sneaking suspicion that two out of the three stories I want to write this week will end up being 7-12k words long.  I’m going to try really hard to keep them under 10k so as not to limit my markets too much, but in the end the story will be as long as it requires.

On Dreams and Goals

I have a friend who decided that she wasn’t happy with her life.  She has a MFA in Art, has been at her job for 9 years, has pets and friends and family where she is.  But she wanted a change.  Her dream, ever since becoming a huge fan of the TV show “Deadliest Catch”, is to work on fishing/crabbing boats.  That is her big dream, and I know plenty of people were skeptical that she could achieve it.  She has no experience with fishing or boats, she’s strong, but really short and hasn’t ever done truly heavy labor.

Did she care that many of the people around her thought it was a crazy dream? No.  She started reading about it, checking job sites, absorbing anything she could about how to get started.

Last weekend I drove her out to an interview with a crab boat captain.   Before she’d even flown back home, she had the job.  In a month or so, she’ll be on a boat, living her dream.

What does this have to do with writing? Plenty.  Dreams are important.  I know I tend to bog myself down in the nitty-gritty of the actual process.  But it isn’t just for the process that I’m writing.  I have a dream, too.  (That phrase is like “who you gonna call”, tainted by fame forever, hehe).  I don’t really talk about my bigger goals very specifically because frankly, I get a lot of criticism for them, both from fellow writers and from my friends and family.  The last time a friend asked what I hoped to do with my writing and I told answered, that friend then scoffed and said something like “yeah, I’d like to win the lottery too.”  That sort of talk is discouraging.  But I try not to let it get to me.  As I said, dreams are important because they provide something to work toward.

What’s my big dream? To consistently make 6 figures a year writing fiction.  I’d love to have a career that is a blend of Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, and JA Konrath.  (If you don’t know who JA Konrath is, go here and read his blog.  If you don’t know who the other two are, get out from under that rock already!)

How am I going to go about reaching that dream?  That is where goals come in.   My friend couldn’t just decide to go work on a fishing boat and then bam! it happened.  She had smaller goals that got her there (ie post on job boards, network with people, read up on the industry etc…).  My goals are all things I can control.

So here is my game plan.  By Jan 2011 I will have 6 novels and 80 short stories out on submission.  (I’m at 1 novel and 24 short stories thus far).  That is just to get my butt in gear and because I’m practicing writing a bunch of different stuff.  Starting next year I intend to write four novels and at least 30 short stories a year which is about 550,000 words.  Half a million words seems like a lot.  Ok, maybe it is a lot.  But I broke that down into even smaller goals.  (I did this before in December, but I’ve revised what I’m doing, so now I get to toss different numbers out).

To get to 550,000 words in a year, I intend to spend at least 30 weeks a year writing 5 days a week (or really, knowing me, the equivalent time to that, probably spread out a little differently).    That’s roughly 18,300 words per week, which for a five day work week means 3,660 words a day.  Three to four hours of writing a day.  Not that scary when it is broken down like that, and it means I have time to take care of all the other stuff that crops up (like mailing stories back out: the more I have out, the more rejections that come back.  Who knew?!).

I write because it is what I do.  Getting paid for what I would do anyway? Awesome.  And that is why I have a dream, a dream that is possible, a dream that will allow me to keep doing what I do already.  And every time someone shakes their head at my dream, I’m going to remember my friend and think about her on the boat pulling crab pots.  And then I’ll smile.

Lists and Motivation

Spent all afternoon not writing because I was scrubbing my hard drive of a nasty virus.  Very frustrating.  Fortunately, I seem to have obliterated it.  Whew.  Nothing is scary like thinking about trying to type five novels on a netbook screen. Seriously.

Spent another chunk of today brainstorming titles (I like to have a working title for any project, it helps gel it in my head) and looking around at what is out there already.  I also secured three website domains for my pen names after making sure the names weren’t anything famous already.  Don’t have a YA pen name yet, but not actually sure I can write YA type stuff, so screw it.  I’ll cross the bridge when I get there.

I did some maths.  Cause I like maths.  I find doing simple math like finance spreadsheets and word count goals relaxing.  (I also find watching friends shoot zombies relaxing, I’m weird.)  In order to complete things on a schedule I feel comfortable with, I need to be writing about 105ppw (pages per week).  That’s an average of six hours of typing each weekday, five if I’m really on a role.  Over 5k words a day.  Possible.  I think I might add a weekend day to this though, just a couple of hours.  And I’m allowing in this page goal 25-30ppw for a short story, because if all I work on is novels I will go crazy from lack of completion.  Especially working on five novels.  I’m not structuring it beyond this.  Whichever novel is dominating my thoughts when I sit down to write will get the pages for that day.

My goal is to have all the novels done by September, along with at least 17 short stories.  I say 17 and not 25 because I’m giving myself room to take days and weeks off if needed.  105ppw puts me at completion of novels by about 17 and a half weeks in.  So I’m leaving wiggle room.  It would be stupid not to. Life happens.

But I’m poor.  Poor is a great motivator to write and submit things.  My dad always used to say he liked it when his kids were broke, because it meant we’d be practically begging to do farm work for cash.  And every time I’m tempted to throw my hands in the air and not write cause I don’t feel like it, well, I’ll keep in mind that this sure as hell beats 70 hour weeks and having to deal with stupid people or drunk people or dead people or things on fire.  Just in case that wasn’t enough motivation, Final Fantasy XIII comes out tomorrow.  And I’m not allowing myself to have it until these five novels are all done and in the mail.  I’ve been waiting for that game for years now. YEARS.  Sooner I get this stuff done, sooner I get to disappear for two months into video game heaven.  Yesh. Will…be…Mine! (I’m 4 years old inside, seriously).

Oh, I promised lists!

What’s out:

20 short stories.

1 novel (to five editors and an agent).

To be done list:

The City is Still Hungry, 90-100k words

Hunting Delilah, 90-100k words

To Honor and Obey, 60-80k words

The Weapons Master, 60-75k words

Menagerie, 30-50k words

Write 17 new short stories and get them out to markets.

Continue to keep existing stories out to markets.

~350,000 words stand between me and Final Fantasy XIII.  I will be … victorious.

Writers of the Future Q1 2010

Honorable mention. Again.  About all there is to say about that.  I keep joking with people that I’m going to make it as a writer “the hard way”, ie never winning a contest, never getting into one of the big workshops.  Who knows, I might actually end up having to do that.  Hell, I’ve got contingency plans for if I’ve written 20-30 novels and they never sell to NY.  It could very well end up I do this whole damn thing the hardest way possible. Sigh.

Meanwhile, I’m not even close to that point yet.  This week I’m giving in to my brain’s desire to write five novels at the same time.  Well, the five that it will let me outline.  Sindra’s Storm is being back-burnered until it grows a cohesive form.  Take that, novel.  I’m hoping that as I get going on the various projects that one will take over.  But worse comes to worse, I’ll have five novels done in the next few months.  It’s not as much work as it sounds like.  I imagine three out of the five will be short novels, one possibly very short since I’m going to try writing it as a middle grade.  So even being written much at the same time, the finishing dates should stagger out nicely.

I also am going to try to work in more short story writing time.  I’m feeling incredibly poor, and as my father always said, poor is motivating.  The more work out to markets, the more likely I am to get a sale.  Never thought I’d empathize with Dickens.  Life is full of surprises.

Also, my blog seems to be doing weird things.  Catagories and links are apparently missing, but yet they show up in my admin pages.  Sigh.  Not going to worry about it right now.  Hopefully Word Press will get around to fixing whatever is broken.

Cleanup Week

Novel editing is done.  Novel bits are mailed and emailed off to appropriate places for the workshop.  Now to get the rest of the stuff done this week that should get done.

I have two stories I need to mail off.  I’m discouraged in that I’m fairly sure I’ve sent them to the most ideal markets for each, which means now I start sort of shooting in the dark.  One of the stories is pretty much hard sci/fi, in that there is nothing in it which isn’t utterly possible in the near future.  But it’s a love story, not a traditional hard sci/fi story.  So I’m not sure if the harder sci/fi markets are right for it.  Never know til I try I guess, right?

The other story is sort of fable/fairytale-esque and has gotten some really nice rejections, but now I’m low on markets for it.  It has eight rejections, which isn’t enough for me to trunk it, but the next two most likely markets for it have other things subbed to them already.  So I think maybe I’ll sit on this one, much as I hate to, and wait for one of those markets to open back up again.  Or I could send it off to a major long-shot.  Hmm.

I have four short stories and a novella to finish, hopefully this week.  Then, next week, I start “Sindra’s Storm”.  For real. Outline or no outline.  Who knows? Maybe one will miraculously come to me this weekend to be written down hurriedly on hotel stationery.  If not, well, I have enough to get started.  I know the general plot and have the shape of the first few chapters.  I even have villain motivation and all that good stuff.  It might be that I just have to sit back and let the book write itself, so to speak.  Not something my control freak brains are good at doing.  Normally I have to be inside everything, figuring out what is going on and what is going to happen next, and I prefer to work from an outline that tells me where the story is going (even if I generally end up revising this outline four or five times while writing).    This time, maybe not.  I’ll know in a week.

I’m setting a totally arbitrary deadline for finishing the rough draft of this novel as March 26th.  Eight weeks. 110,000 words.  About 2,000 words a day.  This’ll be fun!

Grind Grind Grind

After elation of making a sale, I’m back to grinding away.  Rejections keep trickling in, though some have been very nice.  I’m trying not to get too down about having so many nice rejections.  I know it’s a good sign, I just wish I knew what I could do to push the stories over the edge of “good” and into “sold”.  I’m hoping that the workshop I’m attending in Feb will help shed some light on how to do this.   I plan to work my ass off at the workshop, and to try to absorb everything I can, and be as open minded as I can.

I’m more nervous in some ways about the novel workshop.  I’m almost done on the editing pass of “A Heart in Sun and Shadow” and have been riding the rollercoaster of “this is good” and “zomg, how did I write something this bad?”  I really have no idea if it is any good at all.

The hardest part of the editing has been the fact that my brain has moved on.  I am no longer living and breathing this world.  My mind is out of Cymru and running around the mountain kingdom in “Sindra’s Storm” (which still refuses to be outlined).  So the few parts I added to might not really work with the whole.  I’m not sure.  I guess I’ll find out in Feb, for it will be interesting to see if anyone can even tell where I added things.  I didn’t end up adding as much as I at first thought I might, and I’ve cut a few things, so the novel is still quite short and will likely top out around 87,500 words.  The final 50 pages should be quick to finish.  Just a few tweaks of some scenes, and of course the copy/paste of the proper spelling of my main character’s name.  The first half took so much longer because I hadn’t started bothering to use proper dialog punctuation yet.  Never. Doing. That. Again.  From now on, I am not going to be lazy on the first draft.  Nor will I EVER take 8 months off in the middle of a novel. Ever. Again.

So that’s my project for today.  Then next week I’m going to finish the three short stories I’ve started, finish the novella, and then get it out the door for Q2 WOTF.  Then, then it’s time to write “Sindra’s Storm”.  For better or for worse, outline or no outline.

On a side note, I should really look up a market for the erotic non-speculative story I’m part way done with.  Yay for trying things totally outside my comfort zone.  Now, if only it will sell.  Sigh.

Holiday Blues and Sundry

Had a small slew of rejections come in, and while I’d love to turn the stories around and submit somewhere else, most of the markets next on my list are closed right now.  Stupid holidays.  I guess I’m taking a couple weeks off submitting until things open back up.  In some ways this isn’t so bad.  It means that I three stories I can choose from for the first quarter of WotF if I decide I can’t get the novella formerly known as Werewolves in Space done in time to send it in.

Made a new spreadsheet for tracking submissions as well.  Before I just had a single rather messy page in excel with stories down one side and markets across the top.  But I kept adding stories and markets and it started to look like a giant mess.  So now there’s a master list of stories on the first sheet, and then each story has its own sheet with markets listed down the side.  Each row has room for date submitted, date rejected/sold (wishful future-thinking there), and a place to put any editor comments that might come back with it. (“graceful” “unexpectedly moving” “writing is top quality” always followed by some version of “this ultimately didn’t work for me, good luck elsewhere, send us more!”).  I have about 25 markets listed, not all pro-rate of course, but the few that aren’t are either damn close or else highly regarded.  This means that even if I wrote nothing new (which is practically impossible), it’ll be more than a hundred rejections before I run out of markets for my current 12 stories.  Not every story fits every market, of course, but each has at least 10-14 it can go out to.

In more thrilling news, or not, I finally have a working title for Chwedl that actually sounds readable.  So novel project #2, formerly known as “Chwedl” is now called “A Heart in Sun and Shadow”.  That sounds appropriately fantasy I think and somewhat captures the themes/images within the novel.  If I manage to sell this thing, I doubt that will be its final title, but hopefully this new title will catch the eye better than “incomprehensible word” did.

Now, if I could just figure out the title to novel project #3, and a good title for formerly “werewolves in space”.  Originally that novel was going to be called “Predators”, so I suppose I could title the novella such until its written at least.  Titles are funny things.  A good one makes me want to read something, a bad one might turn me away (though rarely).  This is even more true with short stories for me than books.  And yet titles are my least favorite part.  I suck at them.  I have a hell of a time thinking them up and always feel like I could have done so much better.  Just part of my process I guess.

Well, happy holidays.  I’m going to be right here, at the computer, busting my ass to try to make “A Heart in Sun and Shadow” into something someone might want to buy someday.  “Busting my ass” of course might also mean “working on novel project #3”, but hey, it’s all work, right? Right?

Revisions and Worries

Started revising Chwedl.  Turned the first chapter into the prologue that it is, and began the slow and painful process of cleaning up the prose and fixing my terrible dialog punctuation.  I’ve had nearly two months break from this novel, and I still can’t look at it objectively.  It’s probably not as terrible as I think it is.  Probably.  Also, I really need a real title for the book.  The best so far I can come up with is something like “The Hounds of Llynwg” or just “Cwn” (welsh for “hounds”).  Both of which aren’t terribly catchy and still probably too “oh god, book full of unpronounceable names ahead” flashing.  Of course, this book is full of welsh names.  Word spellcheck hates it, with a passion (actually, active spellcheck packed up and went home about 50k words into the novel).  I’ve doomed myself to doing something with this book, however, by signing up for a workshop which involves editing the first 50 or so pages, writing a proposal/query to a real editor, and then mailing the damn thing.  I’m not panicking. Yet.

I also seem to have sent out all my stories on submission, leaving myself nothing to send in for the first quarter Writers of the Future contest.  Oops.  So I have about 20 days to write something and get it in the mail.  I have about four short story ideas brewing that should be ready for the page when I find a moment, as well as a novella.  I’d like to get the novella done and submit that for WotF, but with the holidays and my novel revisions, I’m not holding my breath.

My third novel project is started, but I have no outline or concrete plot yet.  I do have a working title “One and Many”.  Not catchy, I know. I suck at titles.  I need to inject myself with essence of Elizabeth Bear (don’t ask me what that might be) because she has the best titles all the time and I could really use her brain about now.  Or I could just call it “fat fantasy with maps”, which is what it is.  I’m aiming for less than 110k words.  I also want it done by the time I go to the workshops in Feb.

The next novel project was supposed to be the Casimir Hypogean trilogy redrafting, but that’s now pushed back to at least March, and probably back more since my brain has been half-hijacked by a vampire novel.  Yeah, fricken vampires.  And no, not sparkly ones.  Abusive, control freak, obsessive, scary ones.  So we’ll see.  I’m not writing that novel without an outline though, so it better shape up.  One seat-of-pants novel is enough for the year. Seriously.  I love me my outlines.

I’m also taking a short story workshop.  And quaking in fear about that, too.  I know it’ll be good for me, but I worry about not being any good, not being able to deliver a story at all, and other stupid fears that hopefully will get out of my system before Feb.

So that’s what’s up with me.  Now, back to the novel.  Maybe in a hundred pages or so I’ll start liking it. Maybe.