Posts Tagged ‘milestone’

More drafts, more workshops

Friday, August 18th, 2017

from the Revere Beach International Sand Sculpting Festival. There's metaphor in here somewhere.

Summer is tilting to a close, winding down into the cooler days with a spike of heat. It’s been nuts, juggling kids and writing and marketing and family and the world as it currently stands and all manner of things but still, here we are, hanging on by our claws.

I finished Draft #3.5 y’all. Somehow. <a cacophony of horns>

It’s been three years — two years really, adjusted for baby-having — of working on this Novel about ghosts and identity and prejudice and grief and steampunk-iness and birds. The story itself saw its very first incarnation (the first half of a short story) way way back in 2009. It was a little over 3 pages, single-spaced, and just shy of 2000 words.

Draft #3.5 is 95,736 words, aka 307 manuscript pages.

For those keeping track at home, word counts for the drafts, as compiled:

Draft #3.5: 95, 736; 307 pages (~8 months)
Draft #2.5: 92, 038 words; 295 pages (~5 months)
Draft #1: 96, 089; 327 pages (~ 1 year)

I’ve been working on the third draft since January. So roughly eight months — six adjusted for child sick-time and extended vacations. I haven’t been tracking my revisions with this draft you guys because they have been so extensive. I hacked up Part I and rearranged so much that even I forgot the changes I made when I went back to do my ½ draft this past month. I literally had folders labeled “Rearranging” for each Part so I could move scenes out of order without losing them. I hit two major snags — Chapters 13/14 and Chapters 23/24 — that stalled me for weeks each time.  I feel like I’ve taken this draft as far as I can go.

So what now? It’s with beta (gamma?) readers again.

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More readers? When do I get to read it??

Patience, young padwan, and thank you for your vote of confidence. It’s on my ten year plan to be published before I’m 40, so there’s that?

The truth is it needs more eyes but right now it needs a finite number of eyes and the right kind. What I mean to say is I’ve identified several of the problem areas and potential problem areas. I need other writers to look at the manuscript and help me work through those sections. Those who can give me constructive, actionable feedback. I want you to read it —I do!— I can’t wait for that glorious day. But for now I’m still keeping it close because I want it to be as perfect as I can make it when you do get to read it. I want it to flow and make sense and sear you right down to the inner chambers of your heart.

What’s the most interesting thing you learned during this draft?

This will sound silly, but I changed my chapter length. In the last draft, my chapters were usually around 5000 words, give or take a thousand. I cut that down so now they’re more like 3000 on average. That isn’t to say I cut words. Au contraire. Instead I changed where my chapters ended to increase momentum. So now I have more, shorter chapters. I heard a podcast about chapter length on Writing Excuses and it changed my whole outlook. I think it’s made the book stronger, even as it made some transitions much more difficult.

So what’s next?

I’ll be reading some books and some other folks’ manuscripts over the next month. But mostly I am turning my attention to my nascent marketing business huzzah!

I am hosting TWO marketing events this September:

Bookseller Panel FlyerBehind the Bookshelves: A Panel on Building Relationships with Bookstores

Sept. 10, 2 – 4pm, The Writer’s Loft
I’m moderating an awesome group of bookstore folks —managers, booksellers, connected authors— and we’re going to talk about how stores can be community hubs and advocates for writers at all stages. Join us! It’s (pretty much) free!
Class Spotlight Marketing WorkshopBuild Your Own Event: A Marketing Workshop
Sept. 16, 10:30 am – 1:30 pm, Grub Street Inc.

Yup, I’m teaching my building events seminar again but this time at the illustrious, Boston-based, non-profit creative writing center Grub Street Inc. They have a lot of famous instructors y’all. Steve Almond even teaches sometimes. Anyway, I want to make a good impression so if you’ve been wanting to get a crash course in events/marketing, PLEASE SIGN UP. Or if not, SIGN YOUR FRIENDS UP. Nothing makes a good impression like a full roster.

But what about the writing?

I need a little break. Maybe I’ll writing some poetry. Or revise an old short story. There’s a time travel one that’s been kicking me for a rewrite.

But really, prove to me you wrote something. C’mon.

Well, alright, if you insist. From Chapter 8:

Instead, she leans forward so her hair hangs down on either side of her face and she begins to braid it, cleanly and methodically. The braid is tight and small, right next to her face. “Here,” she says, tilting her head towards me, her dark, straight hair caressing my arm, soft as feathers. “Help me.” I want to ask my questions but I don’t. Instead I take a handful of her hair and clumsily separate it into three strands. She is already onto her second braid.

“Where I’m from, mourners wear their hair braided for a year. New braids, every day. Right after a death, you fill your hair with braids, as many as you can make. Members of a family or community will help each other. By the year’s end, you have one braid. Down the back or to the side or tight against the skull. Some people wear their hair that way for the rest of their lives. Others go back to living.” She gently shakes the bottom of the braid she has just finished, tugging on one of the strands and the whole thing unravels. She begins it again.

“Am I allowed to mourn myself?” she asks “How many braids is that?”

“I don’t know.” I try to focus on the braid, distract myself from the soft feeling of my fingers tangled in her hair. But I’m no good at braids; it’s messy, hairs straying all over the place, uneven. No mourning braids in Eidolon; we have the Order of Days and rituals that are supposed to help. Corna would say following the old ways connects us with the Living and the Dead, the wheel and the Valley. Tearing our sleeves, marking our bodies. But it is never finished is it? Just a never-ending circle of deeply etched grief. Perhaps I’m the only one who feels this way. What am I missing? When you can visit your dead face-to-face, what reason is there to grieve? I know a hundred reasons but I still don’t know how to speak them.

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Achievement Unlocked: Draft #2

Monday, May 23rd, 2016

Attention, attention, Draft #2 is complete! *horns blare*

Draft2Stats

I was struggling viciously with the final chapter, which so disappointed me the first time around, but I finally found the right angle at which to approach it. It’s still flawed and has way too much talking and I’m not quite sure I tied up all the questions properly but it’s DONE (caveat: FOR NOW).

The Numbers for DRAFT #2:

Date Started: January 12, 2016
Date Finished: May 19, 2016
# of Writing Days to Completion:  60
# of Chapters:  21 (divided into three Parts) + epilogue
Final Word Count: 92, 038
Difference from 1st draft: -4051
Number of printed pages: 295
Difference from 1st draft: -34
Number of paperback pages: ~234
# of Words I wrote but then cut or didn’t make the cut: 68,328

I tried my best to track my writing/revision word counts and progress but it’s challenging. Revision makes it hard to sort out how much is new and how much isn’t. According to the numbers as I tracked them, I averaged ~927 words/writing day. Again, this is deceptive because there were days when I would work for three hours and technically only add 80 words because I deleted three times as many.

My most successful writing day was April 27th when I spent 6 hours writing and added 3806 words. Some of that included scenes I had removed and reinserted, which is why it is such a particularly high number. See? Like I said, confusing.

If you count all the words that currently reside in this project and are retained in my Scriveners folders (the full draft, notes, outlines, deleted scenes, character sketches, research, etc.)  we’re looking at 275, 612 words . That’s a lot of creative brain juice right there.

So what’s next?

Sleep. And chocolate.

No, in all seriousness, there probably will be some sleep. There will definitely be chocolate. And the reading of books and enjoying of summer. But the next step for this manuscript is to put it in front of a few key sets of eyes: my beta readers.

Is that some kind of fish?

No, beta readers are actual people.  I’ve picked a couple writer friends who have experience reviewing Works-in-Progress (WIPs) and am sending off the manuscript to them as we speak for review sometime this summer (I hope they will forgive the fact that I constantly confuse “its” and “it’s” and use commas far too liberally). Yes, someone is going to finally get to look at this raw honeycomb of a novel. Then in the fall, once I’ve gotten their feedback and taken some space from it all, I’ll start trying to figure out what still needs to be fixed and how best to do that. Aka, DRAFT #3.

Then… I don’t know! More beta reading? More revising? Or finally on to querying? I would love to start querying sometime next year, but we’ll have to see how it all goes down.

But how do you FEEL about it?

Good, actually, thanks for asking! I feel much better about this draft than the first. It’s so much less of a rambling mess. Interestingly enough, in the first draft I felt as if the beginning was strongest, as it’s where I did the most writing/development and the ending was bare bones. With the revision I had to slash and rearrange so much of the beginning that now I have no idea if it’s any good. But the ending feels much more earned and secure.

When can I read it?

Eventually? But because you asked so nicely, here’s a little excerpt from Chapter 1:

I leave the shelter of the woods and head up the long, steep hill in front of me to the overlook. The grass is tall and golden and dampens the legs of my pants as I climb through it. On this side, the hill is pockmarked by mounds, some fresher towards the bottom and older as I reach the top.

The hill rolls down to a fog-laced field of flowers, pale as moths. The daffodils grow all the way up to the rocky edge of the mountainous cliffs surrounding the Mouth of the Valley. The mountains are massive; they glint grey, silver, and gold in the morning sun and they break in two places: to my right, past town, where they hit the ocean and bend away from sight, curving out to the sea; and straight ahead where the deep v-cut cut of the Mouth yawns before us. To the left the cliffs ripple and spike their way into the haze of distance.

In daytime it’s hard to see the lit torches, but they’re there: small licks of flame casting molten shadows on the rust-colored earth at the base of the Mouth, no matter the time of day or night. On the other side bleeds the field of poppies like a red lake, the flowers turning their ruddy faces to the sun. And beyond that, strangely normal pastures and houses of the Valley. A funnel of birds wends it’s way out, rippling against the pale blue sky above the cliffs, before passing over my head.

Looking out over the landscape, the muscles in my shoulders begin to relax. The sun is finally warm against my back. I imagine I can feel the thrumming of the ghost roads around me, pouring down into the Valley, pointing spirits toward the next plane. I don’t let my eyes settle long on the Mouth itself, but instead wrap myself in the heady scent of daffodils, the fresh green of their unfurling leaves. The beginning of daffodil season always feels like some kind of dangerous invitation to closed spaces.

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Mile Marker 80K + writer’s conference

Friday, May 1st, 2015

Yesterday I hit 80,000 words in The Ghost Story project! **fireworks**

So I thought I would update you on my “process”:

  1. Next time I write a novel I want to have more of a plan. Maybe that’s not my true process but being 80,000 words in, a plan would feel really good right about now. This last week has mostly been hyper-productive because I know I have to get my characters from point A to point B and I’ve just been bullheadedly pushing them there.
  2. Revision will either be the life or death of me. There is so much that needs to be fixed, dear readers, and I’m not just talking about the errant cliché (I actually used the phrase “every fiber of my being” and thought I might keel over right then).  I’m talking about referencing stuff in later chapters that never even happened in earlier chapters. I’ve changed people’s personalities and abandoned secondary plots. I don’t know if that means they are better off abandoned or if I’ve shed all extra weight just to get the buoyancy to finish. But I have a document called “Weak Spots” that I’m filling with notes like: Make sure lead up info/backstory is given BEFORE critical scene, not after and Establish conflict and Why would he even DO this?
  3. I’ve upped my daily word count goals. I boosted it from 850 to 1300 last month because needs must. But I’ve found that I can hit that now. If I focus, if I have some specific scenes to work on during a writing session, then I can get there.
  4. Reading backwards. I have to go back and read the last chapter or two before I continue. I usually do some tightening and tidying as a I go, but try not to wallow there too long. Sometimes I go back and read Chapter 1 because that’s where the tone I want lives, in those early pages.
  5. Still aiming for May 31st but… in all honesty, even if I make it to 100,000 words (which would be more like 1,500 words/writing day), I don’t think the story will be finished. It feels like I’m 50 – 60% complete, not 80%. This is where the plan would be really useful. Based on my sort-of plan, there’s a whole additional country to visit (possibly two) and another antagonist to encounter. I think. It feels kind of ridiculous.
  6. I’m still figuring out the shape of this project. What’s the real mystery/mission at the heart of this story? When I go back to revise, I think the focus will be the world, the characters and the questions: What is grief and how do we grieve? How do we live in the face of death? If death and the afterlife were a known quantity, would that make life easier or harder and how? If reincarnation were the cycle of the world, how would that impact the choices people make? What would that kind of world look like? Oh, and making sure it all makes sense.

This weekend is Grub Street’s The Muse & The Marketplace. This is my first writer’s conference and my writing buddy and I are attending all day tomorrow. The workshops I plan to attend include ones on writing through time, handling large casts of characters, writing gender, and creativity exercises. I’m also going to “Star Literary Idol” where there’s a chance that Steve Almond (!) may read the first 250 words of my manuscript to a panel of authors to be Judged. I’ll do an extensive write-up once I’ve processed everything and let you know what I’ve learned. I’m hoping it’ll make this crazy “I don’t know what I’m doing!” feeling a little less “ahhhhh!” and a little more “ahhhh…” or even, possibly “ah HA!”

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