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Posts Tagged ‘writing progress’

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.

Little by Little

I’m well into chapter 3 now. The set up is going slowly. I can’t wait for this part to be over. Another three or four chapters and the plot will have taken shape. From there it will be just writing my characters running headlong into peril after peril. That part I’m looking forward to. The setup? Not as much. I’m working hard on the characterizations and descriptions. Which means I’ll likely have to cull a great deal from this in the later edits, but for now I’d rather include the kitchen sink (and its five paragraph description) than wonder what I’m missing later.

In the last week I’ve had no less than three people ask me what I’m doing for a living now. It feels awkward to say “writing” because I’m not exactly making money at it yet. If you count my editing and freelance writing work from the past, I’ve technically made money doing it, however, so it sort of counts, right? And I am writing now with the goal of publication and monies in the future. I’ve no other paid work at the moment. So I nervously answered “writing” to all of them. No one questioned it. Which probably means I should stop questioning it too.

However, my trying to write full time led to a fight with a sibling. She was in town and so I took a day off to see her. She then wanted me to take another day and drive her some places (which would have taken the whole day). I refused. Driving for hours at a time eats a lot of energy. I knew that if I did this, it would mean no writing got done that day. I’ve been working hard to make sure I spend at least a few hours everyday working on the novel. This is my job now. If I’m going to have a draft done by the time classes start, I can’t really put off writing too much. There are already many things scheduled (like PAX 2008 this weekend) that will take away writing days.

I tried to explain this to my sister. I carefully explained that I had to work. She didn’t get it. She figured I could just take whatever time I wanted since I’m unemployed. Eventually I gave up trying to explain how I wasn’t really unemployed, just self-employed (which is how I see it, despite the no incoming money yet thing). It didn’t end so well.

I have a feeling this is only the first in a line of battles to guard my time and have my writing life taken seriously to the people around me. Once I’m published, perhaps, they’ll truly understand. But I’m not sure they can, being non-writers, understand the sheer volume of work that is writing a good novel. It’s hard. It’s really fucking hard. Maybe it isn’t for everyone, but it is for me. Writing takes a great deal of mental energy and lots of time. I can spend ten hours working on something and end up with only a couple hundred usable words. And unlike most jobs where you have bosses and coworkers and such, if I don’t do the work, it doesn’t get done. No one is going to write my novel for me. The more time I spend not writing, the longer it will be until I can expect any kind of compensation. This is how it works, for me.

Little by little. I have to guard my time. Writing is my job, and as such, I have to make sure I take it seriously. I don’t want to dabble. This isn’t a hobby. I want to write for a living and the only way I know how to do it is to actually write.

Thank You Fruit Tree

Six false starts and as many days later and I’ve finally moved into chapter 2.  Apparently it takes techno, sharp cheese (Razors of flavor…sounds like a bad punk band), and giant glorious bing cherries.  As William Carlos Williams put it,

“Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold”

So today I have 3.5 pages of decent progression.  I’ve decided to tell foreshadowing to take a hike, it’ll work itself in or it won’t, but the plot bus is leaving.  Foreshadowing is something I can write in later if needs be.  I’m still annoyed with myself for getting stuck in the first place.  And for it taking a mental pumping session akin to psyching myself up for athletic performance to get me working again.  Not that I believe brilliant gems should fall onto my screen without any effort, but it is always frustrating when you can see the story in the periphery of the mind but not quite make the leap to reach it.

Onward! Tomorrow, I finish the chapter and perhaps start the next one.

I have failed short story Monday, however. I might write one this week, but frankly, I’m thrilled enough to be writing novel again that I might just go with the momentum of that. We’ll see.

Waxy Thoughts

After spending the majority of a 12 hour work shift putting together a reading wish list and trolling writing forums, I’m exhausted and full to brim with thoughts that won’t seem so deep tomorrow.

After reading a largish amount of amateur short fiction in the last few days, I’m yet amazed at ego involved. On the one hand, posting for reviews is good. Having others read one’s work is useful often. On the other hand, so many of these ‘reviews’ are fellow amateur writers who refuse to say anything more negative than making gentle comments about maybe looking into cleaning up grammar or spelling mistakes. It’s a lot of back patting and hand holding. For me, it’s very hard not to fire up the flamethrower and wade on in. For criticism to work, it has to be constructive. But it also has to be critical. “You’re story was nice.” or “I liked it.” doesn’t help. Even a little. And really, the illusions about their skills that 99% of these writers seem to harbor, well, it’s staggering. Half the time I’m tempted to leave truthful yet equally unhelpful reviews like “you really need to scrap this and start over” or “maybe your talents lie more in knitting, or cooking, or something that will never involve the English language or a keyboard.” Of course, this doesn’t tell them much. It doesn’t really help because such negativity is easy to ignore. So instead I try to offer real criticism that basically says these things in very long form. I tear tiredly into these little tidbits of drivel offered up by the writing virgins and hope that at least some part will sink in.

There’s a strange gap in writer ego, as far as I can tell. People who write amateur fiction seem to fall into two camps. There are the writers who think they are the next great ‘thing’, the undiscovered genius. Then there are those (of which I’m one, I must admit) who think that they’re pretty much doomed to remain unread and unloved because they’ll never be sure if anything they’ve written is any good at all. Sometimes I wish I could change camps. Having some measure of pride or at least misplaced glee in my work might spur me to actually get things done. Certainly some of my least favorite writers among the published masses manage to produce vast amounts of their mediocre fiction. Perhaps that thin illusion of potential would make a nice shield for my easily bruised writing ego.

Perhaps I should just stop reading good books. Every time I read a decent novel, I dig myself a little deeper into the trench of personal expectation. Sadly, reading bad novels just pisses me off instead of providing a ladder out of said conceit. Recently I’ve been reading Simon Green’s Hawk and Fisher stories. I’m disappointed. It’s amateur writing at its finest. The potential is there, but the stories so far feel like something churned out to meet a writing workshop first draft deadline. I pretty much hate reviewing things, so this should tell you how surprised I was at the quality of this work. I mean, it came recommended, damnit. Sigh. It should give me hope; this mediocre work by an author with plenty of published works to his name. Somehow this only makes me sad.

In the writing project news category: I’ve decided that while I’m not a daily writer sort of writer, I need to kickstart myself. I’ve taken on a lot more project than I intended to, which means my usual method of binge writing isn’t going to cut it. I can’t keep treating writing like a free bag of cookies that I eat half of before I realize I don’t really like these cookies, but then finish out of guilt. So I’m aiming for 2 hours a day of writing type activity. That’s ten hours a week. (weekends are full of work, and work is full of stupid which isn’t good for writing). We’ll see how Plan B goes. Plan C involves a blow torch, six white mice, a one way plane ticket, and pink silk stockings. Don’t ask.

(edit: also, I realize the irony of saying I write mediocre fiction vs my arrogant presumption that my critical reviews of other works are valid and useful.  In my defense, I’m a pretty damn good editor.  Also, I read more than pretty much anyone I know.  It might be cliche to say that reading makes you better at writing, but it is true to an extent.  I’ve spent years feeling out and learning what works or doesn’t as I read. )