80,000 words or 100,000 words? That is the question.

Today was a solid writing day–a 1,500 words kind of solid writing day. I finished writing chapter four and knocked 1,000 words off the top of that bad-boy chapter five. Not bad, am I right?

The only question bouncing around in my brain right now is whether or not I should be shooting for 100,000 words or 80,000. The reason I’m not sure is that I already knocked out a first draft which counts to me as the crappy draft that I would be shaving in the end. That being said, I should be able to aim for 80,000 on this draft and then see what I have from there.

I guess we’ll see. More details to come!


Writing, Rewriting, and the Holy Mother of Potter

Man, I’m rocking and rolling with this new book. I’ve set out a plan–oh how I love plans!–to crank out two chapters a week, and I’ve been sticking to the thing. Each chapter is about 2,500 words or so, and as I’ve done a super wicked awesome job plotting this bad mama-jama out that the thing each one of those chapters is swimming in nail-biting conflict.

Oh, yeah. I’m stoked.

Bad jokes are what I do!

Writing 5,000 a week is actually a step down from how fast I pumped through the first draft. For that one I was doing three chapters a week and those things were bloated like nothing you’ve ever seen. I’m talking about 3,500-4,000 word chapters kind of bloat. Chapters like that make for a monster book, eh? That’s the problem with plotting out a bunch of crap and then packing in a whole bunch more crap on top of that crap. I started having to set a word limit for each chapter–a rule that’s become useful for this draft as well, actually.

No Potter? No problem!

On a non-writing note, who’s been following the news about J.K. Rowling’s new book? There’s been a bunch of hype surrounding the news, most of it good, some lukewarm. I’m more on the she’ll-knock-it-out-of-the-park side of things. Of course, I might be biased. If it wasn’t for HP I would never have started writing, and what a sad tale of woe that’d be to sing.

Which side are you on? Think she’ll crank out another amazing tale, or will the lack of Potterness end up a bust? Seriously, I want to know.

[those clever pictures are from here and here]

A Groundhog’s Day Worth of Fiction Writing

On a scale from ten to one on the suck-o-meter–ten being where I write like a best-seller and one being the inability to write complete sentences–I think today was about a three and a half.

See, I woke up this morning with a sweet-ass-sweet plan to get a whole bunch of writing done. I had it all laid out: pack my laptop along with me to work and then head to this little coffee shop nearby. I swaggered in, snagged a mug of hair bending french press–french press has got to be the perfect go-juice when it comes to writing–and then plopped my cheeks down at a table.

“I’m ready,” I told the room. “Let the brilliant ideas flow forth!”

And that’s when the suck commenced.

I spent the first hour writing and rewriting the same paragraph. I’d tap out something that felt decent, then reread the paragraph and hate it. Then I’d do it again, hate it again, do it again, ad nauseum.

My face while writing. The groundhog's, I mean. Not Bill's.

It sort of felt like that movie Groundhog’s Day, except much less funny because Bill Murray wasn’t there.

At some point I got sick of writing the same thing over and over so I just settled on the version that seemed the least sucky and moved on. I decided to start rolling from the beginning of the chapter and laying in some light revisions. I reworked a few sentences, swapped a couple of words, and pretty soon I felt like taking on that paragraph again.

Good thing I did. I went back and pwned that thing.

So it all had a happy ending. Isn’t that great? I got a couple revisions done, finished that super painful paragraph, and capped off chapter two. And all it took was four fricken hours.

So now, my question to all you writers: have you ever had problems like this? If so, what do you do about them? When you hit a block do you power through it or are you more the type to snap your laptop shut and give your brain a rest? Fill me in. I really want to know.

[I got that flick of Bill here]

Two Full Cups of Awesome

What’s the good word, foolios?

Before I get started on today’s bloggity blog entry, I’d like to say thank you to all the folks who pushed that old follow button at the top of my page. Take a minute to check out the blogs of Malou, Aubrey, and Elisa. Each one of them is packing two full cups of awesome.

Now, down to business.

I sat down today and hammered out another 1,000 words of chapter two. The plot seems to be trucking along fairly well, but there are some real issues I keep running up against.

A little background for all you folks who are just catching up:

My approach with this draft is to start into each chapter with as few solid details as possible. This approach is totally based on the craptastic experience I had with my first draft. See, on my first go-round I had lots of great ideas all sketched out on note cards, but those note cards ended up being more of a hindrance than a help. For me, the process of writing always generates lots of on-the-spot ideas that I know will make the story super sweet. The thing is, when I try to cram my note card ideas with the spontaneous ideas popping out of my brain I end up telling two totally different stories in the same fricken book. What’s more is that when I go back to revise this two-in-one monstrosity I’ve got chapters that top out at 3,500 words at a minimum. Way too long for the YA novel I’ve got my sights on.

My problem now is that I get stuck on these little rabbit trails in the plot. I start flowing along with the writing, tapping out all sorts of fun-loving stuff when I discover that I’m writing Grade A crap that does nothing to advance the plot. But don’t despair, friend. There’s a serious sunny side to this problem. Because I’m not married to the plot in the same way that I was with the note cards I can just hit the old backspace button and start fresh from where the plot was still feeling good. Before I know it I’m cooking along and the story is wicked fun to write again.

So yeah, that’s where I’m at. Writing this book has been ridiculously tough but it’s also one of the most satisfying things I’ve ever done.

On an unrelated note, you ought to check out the new Walking Dead episode. The tension between Shane and Rick is going to explode into a wild and crazy drama bomb. I can’t wait!

Chapter One, Part 2: The Re-Chaptering

Whoa! Rewriting does not suck as bad as I’d thought it would. Who knew?

Have no idea what I’m talking about? Lemme back it on up real quick for the folks playing catch-up (That word makes me think of ketchup. Or is it catsup? I vote the former). I mentioned in a previous blog post that I’m starting this whole novel thingy from scratch. Deciding to scrap the first draft was tough, but I’m 99% sure it’s going to pay off. Let’s just hope the 1% doesn’t come in and ruin it for me.

[insert rimshot punch line sound here]

My first draft had about a million little loose ends–stuff that made no kinds of sense to me. So I figured, “Hey, if something I wrote doesn’t jive with me, then what are the chance that someone else is going to be into it?”

“Not good,” I said in my best Gollum voice. “Not good at all, my love.”

Anyways, I’m on the second day of pounding away at this thing and I feel pretty okay with how things are panning out. When I thought about rewriting I didn’t plan on reworking the whole story, but as I got deeper into the process I started to figure out that I was going to have to make an entirely new story if I wanted to make the thing work. The characters are pretty much all the same–that is to say that they have the same motivations and such–but the way the plot plays out is quite a bit different. Looking at the first draft showed me that the scenarios I was putting them in were not dramatic enough. I needed to make them hurt, make them bleed a bit more. That might sound really weird, but in my brain-grapes it makes perfect sense.

So that’s where I’m at. I did a thousandish words today of chapter uno but I’m going to plug away at it some more this evening. When things go sideways (and they always do!) I’ll be sure to come on here and lay out my plan for getting through it.

How I Quit Being a Baby About Editing – Part Two

Where did I leave off? Oh, yeah. I’d been sobbing.

Just kidding, foolios. I was talking about editing and how rough it is. More specifically, I was writing about how I don’t know what the %#&! editing is all about. Or at least I didn’t know. Not completely. I’ve got a few plans on what I’m going to do next. Here they are!

Wading my way through the process of writing a novel has been messy. Super dooper messy, man. But thankfully, messy isn’t the same thing as impossible. No, sir. Not even close.

I starting off editing where I left off: my writing. I had the manuscript, notebooks full of character sketches and plot ideas, not to mention a fatty pile of notecards that I’d stacked. I sorted through all of it, flipping from manuscript to notebooks to notecards but I couldn’t really felt like I was getting my footing. Good golly, it was about the biggest bummer ever. See, I had this expectation about how I was just going to plow through the editing process the same way I’d done with the writing. But this whole editing thing? Not the same at all. Everything I tried felt like I was spinning my wheels in the mud.

Whenever I get stuck on some writing I like to mix things up a little bit by doing something out of the ordinary. Picking up my wife’s cat Lola and spinning around in circles until we’re both super dizzy is one of my more solid methods for getting the old cerebral juices pumping. Usually it takes just one kitty spinning session to get things working but seeing as this was a pretty tough problem I had to take her for three separate sessions. By the end of it Lola was in a serious hissing mood, but I my brain was back in working order.

I started over by asking some questions. Why was this sucking so bad? Why wasn’t I getting anything done? What did I need to do to make this thing work? I decided to take a look at the manuscript and try to figure out a way to start working on it by making a list of all its nasty flaws.

  1. The thing is 120,000 words long–holy crap, that’s big! Way too big for a YA novel, even with the typical fat that gets trimmed in revisions.
  2. There is way too much internal dialogue. Why did my protagonist need to always reflect on what she was doing?
  3. I have too many scenes that serve no purpose. If a scene does nothing to drive the plot then it needs to go the way of the buffalo.

Looking at these flaws led me back to my stack of notecards. On a sidenote, I think I’m going to post a picture so you guys can see the level of shenanigans that got to. Seriously, that stack was fatter than Dudley Dursley after Christmas dinner, not to mention that every single card was totally packed with a million gazillion notes.

But wait, I thought. Could that be it? Could it be the million gazillion notes that were the problem? Yes! It all made sense now. What a dorkus maximus I’d been. In trying to build the framework for my book I’d gone totally OCD and overdid the thing. In trying to plan things out so as to not lose the trail of the story I’d gone and made the thing too complicated. The result? 120,000 words of YA science fiction.

That was so dumb. That was really dumb. Fo’ real.

But it’s not all bad. Writing that bloated manuscript taught me what not to do when I rewrite. Now I know that I need to pull waaaaay back. I need to plan things out, but I need to do a whole lot less of it. And that’s where I’m at now. I’ve got a bunch of chapters plotted out, but not in the extreme way that I did before. It might not end up being the way I stick through the process, but it’s a place to start.

How I Quit Being a Baby About Editing – Part One

It took a real rough patch to get me rolling on the editing process but I feel like I’ve finally hammered out a solid plan for doing work.

Here’s how it went down:

Before I even started writing I spent a month scribbling out a fat stack of note cards with every scene I wanted to include. After getting the plot out on note cards I dropped the writing machine into sixth gear and didn’t quit for three months. Bam! That’s 120,000 words just ninety days. Not too shabby for a guy who has trouble focusing on one thing for very–holy crap, did you see that bird?

Bad thing was, those three months killed my brain meats like I’d been sippin’ on some sizzurp. I needed a break. I decided to chillax on it for a while–sit back and leave the dang thang alone, you feel me? Much smarter people than I suggest leaving the first draft alone for a solid month, so that’s what I did. I didn’t touch it. I didn’t talk about it. I didn’t even stop to smell it (okay, I smelled it once, but it was only for a second). I spent that month reading books about editing and trying to work on a couple of other projects until my brain meats recovered.

When I felt the juices had been recharged in my brain I decided the time for editing had come!

Oh man, I wish just deciding to do it had been all I’d needed to be a good editor. I wish I wish I wish! But alas, it wasn’t. Editing was something that was going to make me want to kick a kitten (just kidding!). I needed to learn about it by failing, flailing, and then crying myself to sleep.

No, it wasn’t actually that serious. It’s been frustrating at times, but not so frustrating that I want to quit.

But more on that tomorrow. Except the kitten kicking part. And the crying.

Well, maybe not the crying.