Sunday, September 30, 2007

A little more on chapter 6.

Only two and a half pages today, but I'm all right with that. I got the content that I wrote last time edited, which was good, and I also figured out a minor plot point that had been holding me back with the rest of this chapter. I took yesterday and Friday off, and had intended to take today off as well, but just couldn't stay away that long at once. I've been feeling really tired, and fairly sick (just a cold or allergies, I think), so that's been putting a crimp in my writing. I slept for about 12 hours last night, which is extraordinarily rare for me.

Fortunately, I already had 84 total pages for September, and my goal was 80, so I had earned a couple of days off. Now I'm up to 86 pages, so that's even better for ending the month. Here's hoping I can reach 160 pages total by the end of October!

The stats as of today:
-36,000 estimated words.
-42,091 actual words.
-Five-and-a-portion fully-revised-and-expanded chapters (86 pages total).
-Eleven completed chapters in all (144 pages).

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Solid Progress on Chapter 6

Five and a half pages today, and most of that was new content! And in only two hours, amazingly. Some scenes flow, some don't. Some days are good, others not so much. It's hard to find any root cause for why things go well or badly on any given day, but suffice it to say that I'm happy the writing went well today.

The stats as of today:
-36,000 estimated words.
-41,954 actual words.
-Five-and-a-portion fully-revised-and-expanded chapters (83 pages total).
-Eleven completed chapters in all (144 pages).

PS -- Finally my time is set correctly on the blog again. It was always an hour behind, and I couldn't figure out why. Most of the time I remembered to correct my post times, but sometimes I forgot. I'd looked through the blog settings multiple times in the past, and finally found the time zone setting tonight. Turns out I was on Cayman Islands time, of all places!

PPS -- Looks like the fix to the time zone as auto-set all of my old times ahead by an hour. Darn. Since I post right near midnight most nights, it's set most of my posts forward by a day. At least things will be correct from now on, though.

PPPS (Is that even a thing? I don't think that it is) -- So, I went back and fixed the dates/times for the entries from the last month, at least (I'm anal like that). However, I apologize for those of you who use RSS readers, because it likely marked a bunch of posts as new, when they really aren't. You can safely just hit "mark as read" for every post after this one in the reader (as if you're hanging on every post, anyway). That's all the P's and S's for tonight, I promise. Good night, all!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Website Updates, and Progress

Three pages today. I would have easily reached four or even six pages, had I not gotten side-tracked tweaking the code for my website/blog (ahem. For four hours). Well, there were a few different little glitches on the site in both FireFox and IE, and they've been bothering me for months now. For whatever reason, I chose tonight to be my night to make those updates. The result is that the glitches are gone, I made a few minor graphical enhancements, and I'm a bit more cross-browser compatible.

I guess that's worth sacrificing a few pages' worth of work, since the website/blog is, after all, most people's first impression of me. It's one of those marketing things that I've decided to get a jump on well before I even have an agent, let alone a publisher, because I don't want to get in a crunch (or hire somebody else) on account of the website later on. Plus, tweaking it gradually over time gives me a good chance to let the design gradually "settle."

Even so, this can't become a habit. I did finish with chapter 5 tonight, so I'm back to revising/expanding with chapter 6 tomorrow. It won't be until I get a fair ways into chapter 7 that I have another all-new scene to add.

The stats as of today:
-35,500 estimated words.
-41,126 actual words.
-Five fully-revised-and-expanded chapters (78 pages total).
-Eleven completed chapters in all (142 pages).

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Made it... barely.

Just a quick post, today. I took yesterday off for a family event, so no progress then. Today was your typical Monday, but I managed to get a lot done today despite that. Tonight it took me four hours to write my four pages (two hours for the first, an hour for the second, and an hour for both the third and fourth together), and I also made minor revisions to my work from Saturday. I really didn't think I was going to make my goal, but somehow I managed to pull myself into the swing of things at long last, and I did.

That would be a rewarding feeling, if I wasn't so exhausted. But I know I'll appreciate it more tomorrow -- and even more so, I'll appreciate this sort of thing in aggregate, because if I let nights like tonight stop me, then I'm likely to get stuck for days. My hope is that by having pushed through a tough scene tonight, tomorrow's scene will flow easily. That's been the tentative pattern so far, but I don't necessarily trust it to hold up indefinitely.

Oh yes, and I broke 40,000 actual words today! Anyway, that's all for now. Time to get some rest...

The stats as of today:
-34,750 estimated words.
-40,376 actual words.
-Almost-six fully-revised-and-expanded chapters (75 pages total).
-Almost-eleven completed chapters in all (139 pages).

Monday, September 24, 2007

Plotting and Brainstorming

I didn't make my writing goal today. I revised my content from last night, and made perhaps a half-page's progress on the rest of the scene. I was having a lot of trouble determining how to wrap up this scene and ultimately end it, and that was really stopping me cold. The initial ideas that I had had when first planning this scene now seemed insufficient, but I couldn't figure out anything better.

Well, after an hour or two of flogging myself with this, trying to come up with something brilliant, I finally realized I could talk it over with my wife, who is also a writer (and a terrific editor). In the past, we haven't talked much about works in progress because we like to give the other one a chance to read the finished product (or at least a mid-level draft) with fresh eyes. But lately we've been breaking that habit, and that's definitely for the better. Brainstorming works so much better with two people than with one. Ten minutes of talking with my wife, and we had eliminated several possibilities and established the general parameters for what could happen in the next part of the scene -- being able to set some boundaries is really important when you have writer's block, or at least it is for me. With that all settled, a really great idea for ending the scene occurred to me straightaway.

Sometimes it's my wife that comes up with the great idea for my writing, sometimes it's me who comes up with the great idea for hers, but often just being able to talk to someone else about a troubling scene makes the writer come up with something all by himself/herself. Certainly, it varies, but the point is that having that second person can be really invaluable. I'm sure I would have come upon a solution eventually, but with my part-time writing schedule, it could have taken days or weeks of misery and blockage. Instead, though today was shot for writing, I'm all set for tomorrow. Tomorrow should be a good day for writing, easy to hit my goal, because I know just what I want to do with the upcoming sections (even though I'm sure that some in-the-moment details will surprise me).

Writers are often rather solitary, as writing is considered a solitary art, but if you find yourself frequently blocked, getting a friend/spouse/family member to be your sounding board might just be the ticket to breaking through. I think a lot of people use their critique partners this way, actually. But even if you don't have a full-out critique partner, having an idea-partner might be a really great way to help keep your writing on track. After all, just having someone to poke holes in your logic is a huge value in itself. Much better that happen during the ideation stage, rather than after everything is done (or worse, after publication).

I'm really glad that I finally realized this. It gives me a lot more confidence that I'll be able to maintain my pace of progress after I run out of content that needs to be revised/expanded.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Met my goal again.

Four pages, yet again! And I also made some minor revisions to the six pages from last night, so those are fully ready to go, now. This content was almost completely new, but it replaced another scene that was preexisting, so my total page count didn't rise as much as my revised page count. I had been planning to write another all-new scene to go with the one from last night, but the pacing just didn't feel right with what I was planning. So instead, I archived that idea, and will probably re-insert that scene (and actually write it) sometime later in the book. I suspect somewhere in chapter 7 or 8, unless something even better strikes me before then.

The stats as of today:
-33,750 estimated words.
-38,959 actual words.
-Five-and-a-portion fully-revised-and-expanded chapters (71 pages total).
-Ten-and-a-portion completed chapters in all (135 pages).

Friday, September 21, 2007

Well into chapter 5.

Six pages of all-new content today! And it only took me two and a half hours, amazingly. I was really flying through this content, which is surprising, because I hadn't planned it out as well as I usually need to. This scene was a flashback, and a key one at that, but since I knew the characters well enough, it came pretty easily. It actually surprised me three times with twists on how the scene developed, but I love it when scenes do that to me. It gives me the same sense of surprise that the reader gets.

Anyway, I can't say much about the specifics of the scene, as usual, but I'm now about a third of the way through chapter five. I hadn't intended on writing this entire scene tonight, but, like I said, things were just flowing. I'm happy to see that this can happen when I'm writing new content, and on a Friday to boot. If I keep this up, I'm going to finish ahead of my goal, which was ambitious to begin with. I guess we'll see if I can maintain my momentum that long. I hope so!

The stats as of today:
-33,500 estimated words.
-38,628 actual words.
-Five-and-a-portion fully-revised-and-expanded chapters (67 pages total).
-Ten-and-a-portion completed chapters in all (134 pages).

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Finishing Chapter 4

Man, today was one of those days that makes me love being a writer. I was really feeling stuck yesterday on what to do with the next scene. I knew that I was going to have to rewrite it pretty completely, and it's a scene that is pretty emotionally loaded, so I was really concerned about doing it right. Well, today I spent a good amount of time after work just thinking about what I could do with that scene. My wife went to a movie with some of her friends, so this was an ideal time for me to just try and figure this out.

It took about two hours of driving, running on the elliptical trainer (nothing like endorphins to help the writing process), and zoning out looking at the rain -- but I finally figured it out. The scene had been awkward before partly because of its content, partly because of its brevity, and partly because of how it touched on important issues without really explaining them properly (because there were certain things I didn't want to give away yet). Well, I figured out how to fix all that, and I did it without giving away more than I wanted to at this stage of the novel.

Additionally, it actually gave a whole new level to one of my long-planned sub-plots, so that was an even bigger bonus. The ultimate result was some new content that I'm really proud of, five solid pages for my daily total, as well as a finished chapter four. All right!

Of course, tomorrow I'm going to have to do it all over again, because I have another emotionally-charged scene that I have to write, and which I haven't fully thought through just yet. So we'll see how that goes, but I'm hopeful. It will be a good test of the speed at which I'll be able to work once my current revision/expansion phase is finished with this book.

The stats as of today:
-32,000 estimated words.
-36,814 actual words.
-Four fully-revised-and-expanded chapters (61 pages total).
-Ten-and-a-portion completed chapters in all (128 pages).

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Some days you win...

Some days you win the battle with yourself, some days you don't. Today I only completed two pages of work, though I did spend an hour making some slight adjustments to yesterday's work (that shouldn't have taken an hour, but it speaks to the state of mind I was in). Today was exhausting, and I was just too distracted to get as much done as I would have liked. I also wasn't quite sure what I wanted to do with the scene I'm rewriting, and that never helps. I'll be better prepared next time. Tomorrow will be better, I'll make sure of it. Publicly airing both my successes and failures is a help, actually.

The stats as of today:
-31,000 estimated words.
-35,751 actual words.
-Almost-four fully-revised-and-expanded chapters (57 pages total).
-Ten completed chapters in all (124 pages).

Books vs. Movies

So I recently saw Stardust, a movie adaptation of a Neil Gaiman novel. From the early trailers, I wasn't interested in this movie, and from the jacket blurb and the description on Amazon, I wasn't interested in the novel. It really just didn't seem like my type of thing -- even though I write fantasy, I really am not a fan of most traditional "high fantasy," which is pretty much what this seemed to be (albeit with many strange twists, such as an odd-looking pirate played by Robert De Niro -- though I like De Niro very much, he's not exactly what jumps to mind for fantasy, right?).

Well, I guess by now you've probably heard similar sentiments all around the Internet, in papers, and from family and friends. In my case, my sister was dragged into it with low expectations, and came out talking about how great the movie was. She convinced me and my wife to go, but even still, we went in fairly reluctantly. And then, of course, like everyone else, we came out talking about how great it was. De Niro was perfect for the role he played, and I can't imagine that pirate being played by anyone else.

Well, I suppose I could launch into a discussion of bad trailers and/or bad jacket blurbs, or even a discussion of how new and/or humorous twists on old formulas don't synopsize well -- but that isn't what I really want to talk about today. This post is titled what it is because I'm now reading the original novel of STARDUST, and so far I'm really loving it -- and I'm realizing that I really prefer to read the novels after I see the movies. Otherwise, I get irritated by everything that's missing in the movie version, and everything that they changed or "messed up" for reasons of time, or visual splendor, or whatever. This was how I felt about the last few Harry Potter movies, having read and loved the books long before.

It's interesting how it only seems to work one way, most of the time. I read Stephen King's THE SHINING earlier this year, really enjoyed it, and then saw the Kubrick film -- which, of course, Kubrick really made his own, and so was completely different from the book. If I'd seen the movie before reading the book, I wonder how I would have felt? It seems to me that when I read a book after the movie, it's like finding a treasure trove of new detail to flush out what I already liked in the movie, whereas when I see a movie version of a book, it's often a popularized, lobotomized version of the book.

The upcoming movie adaptation of THE DARK IS RISING does not look promising in that regard, but I'll be going to see it regardless, because that's one of my favorite books of all time and I'd like to see how it translates to film (even though I suspect it will not fare well -- they renamed it "The Seeker," for crying out loud, and gave Will more powers and a girl crush -- that's not the story that first captivated me in fourth grade). But there's always hope, right? Fans of the Lord of the Rings books (which I am not) largely seemed pleased by the movie trilogy, and I thought the most recent movie version of THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE was exquisite. I suspect that I AM LEGEND will be an excellent adaptation of the Richard Matheson classic (which I only recently read), despite how much it has obviously changed from the original, given the trailer.

So it's not that I don't think that adaptations of books make for good movies, but it's just that so often the movies are an entirely new entity. Sometimes the movie keeps the spirit of the book, sometimes it keeps the plot and/or characterization details, sometimes it keeps little of anything. In an abstract sense, I don't really even see anything wrong with that -- film and fiction are two totally different mediums. I'd think it acceptable for a writer to hear a song, or see a painting, and be inspired into writing a novelization. That's acceptable partly because the book and the painting would so obviously be two different things -- no one would try to claim that the book was the "book version" of the painting. That wouldn't even make sense.

But since movies and books do have so many elements in common -- though novels lack the visual component of movies, and movies lack the internal life of novels, they otherwise have many shared components -- I think the tendency is for people to think that they can see the movie or read the book, and one is just as good as the other. That's where I disagree. If you saw the movie Stardust and loved it, wonderful -- now go and buy the book. If you've read the book, you might well like this particular movie adaptation, as well -- though I will warn you that many details have been changed, the spirit remains intact.

Film adaptations generally say "based on the novel," but it seems like that generally isn't something that people take too literally. Perhaps it would be more clear if we said that most movies were "inspired by" the book. Interestingly, people often have the same problem understanding what "based on a true story" means. As if memoirists just jotted down the facts of their life as they happened. A lot goes into making a successful, interesting memoir, even if the memoirist's life was inherently fascinating. I think that the same thing is true of book-to-movie adaptations.

If only more people would realize the differences inherent between the mediums, and how much is missed by seeing just the one "version" in the theaters, then perhaps the recent upsurge in novel-based movies would cause a corresponding upsurge in readership. If only.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

More Progress

Nothing insightful today, just a progress report. I was feeling pretty sick this morning, so I didn't think I would be writing much, but by this evening I was feeling much better, and so managed to surpass my daily goal by a page in only a little over two hours. I had a longish meeting this afternoon, and oddly that seemed to clear up most of my cold symptoms. That's probably not one anyone's heard before. Meetings have never been a cold remedy for me before, but whatever works...

The stats as of today:
-30,750 estimated words.
-35,285 actual words.
-Almost-four fully-revised-and-expanded chapters (55 pages total).
-Ten completed chapters in all (123 pages).

Monday, September 17, 2007

Conflict vs. Anger

I made my goal of four pages again today -- four and a half pages, actually. I had to almost completely rewrite the opening two scenes of chapter four. In one scene, nothing really happened, and in the other my two characters (Elaine and Darrell) were passive and a jerk, respectively. Not exactly my best work -- my weakest writing in ALDEN RIDGE came in this particular chapter, actually, because I was trying too hard to write in a style that is not my own.

I was intentionally trying to create external conflict between the characters, in keeping with some of the writerly advice that I was reading around that time. I had read that a modern debut has to have conflict on every page, and I took that a little bit too literally in the case of Darrell needlessly acting like a jerk. In my rewrites, I was able to maintain the conflict -- he and Elaine are disagreeing about something important, and ultimately he doesn't get what he wants -- but I did so in a way that doesn't even make him come across as rude.

I suppose it may seem a subtle distinction, but essentially I just made it so that the conflict was implicit to the scene, rather than something that I was artificially manufacturing by characterizing Darrell in a way I hadn't originally intended. Based on the original version of the scene, I actually had one reader who started wondering if Darrell was going to actually turn out to be the bad guy. Suffice it to say, this was not what I was intending to convey. But I do feel like my reworked version is firing on all cylinders.

So that's what I did with the second scene -- the first scene, which was largely between Darrell and Lela, was just empty before. He told Lela some things, she said okay to each thing, there was some internal conflict on his part, and the scene ended. Fairly true to life in representing how a parent might give instructions to a child, but not exactly riveting to read about. In the original version of this scene, instead of having conflict that was manufactured, I just didn't have any conflict at all.

Fortunately, I was able to solve this problem during my rewrite. I introduced some new issues by showing more of both Darrell and Lela's thoughts (one of the beautiful things about my choice to write in third omniscient), and I rewrote their dialogue so that it was a lot more active and involved some real back-and-forth between the two of them. That way it wasn't just his monologue with her brief acknowledgments inserted in the middle. Much, much better this way.

At any rate, tonight's work takes me about a third of the way through my original chapter four, and then chapter five is going to be my first all-new chapter during these rewrites. I'm very much looking forward to that -- I guess I'll be reaching that point in three days at the most if I keep to my schedule. Oh, and also: today I hit 30,000 estimated words. All right!

The stats as of today:
-30,000 estimated words.
-34,684 actual words.
-Three-and-a-portion fully-revised-and-expanded chapters (50 pages total).
-Ten completed chapters in all (120 pages).

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Excerpt, and a new rendering.

Today was one of my ten days off for this month, so I did very little revising/writing. Most of my spare time was spent working on a new rendering, this one depicting the factory from the opening chapters of ALDEN RIDGE, as it sits on the river. I've posted a full-height version below, as well as a version that has been cropped to be easily displayed on standard computer monitor dimensions.

Additionally, I've finally gotten around to posting my new excerpt from ALDEN RIDGE. You can read that here. This excerpt only contains one chapter, but the amount of content is just about the same as the two chapters that comprised my (most recent) old version. The new version of chapter one largely takes place just before where the old chapter one started, so most of it is all-new, but it catches up to the content of the old chapter one in the last two or three pages (out of what is a total of twelve and a half standard pages).

In general, I think that this new version is much better written, and contains a lot more to grab the reader's interest. It's written as dark fantasy now, remember, and so no longer exhibits the terseness or extreme pacing of a thriller. And yes, this is written in omniscient third -- please don't complain to me about that. I'm mostly posting this so that this website showcases my best work; I'm really not looking for feedback on this content at this time. I wrote it too recently to be able to make good use out of any good constructive criticism just yet.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Inspiration Strikes

Woohoo! I had suspected that today might be a productive day, for whatever reason, and I was right. This morning I woke up with the edits for the next lines of chapter three fixed in my head. When I went to make them, I wound up sitting down and working for two hours to finish off the rest of that chapter -- and I easily hit my daily goal of four completed pages. Much better than last night!

The stats as of today:
-29,750 estimated words.
-34,222 actual words.
-Three fully-revised-and-expanded chapters (45 pages total).
-Ten completed chapters in all (119 pages).

Friday, September 14, 2007

One of those days...

Bleh. Today was one of those days where I just didn't want to write at first, for a variety of reasons. It had been a fairly tiring day of programming work, and besides, it was Friday. Also, there was a really severe thunderstorm and several tornadoes touched down in the area -- I don't care about lightning, but tornadoes have been the primary actor in my worst nightmares since I was a kid. Lastly, I was kind of sore, and finding it hard to get comfortable in my chair. Oh, and I was a bit too hot.

Ahem. Presumably you see where I'm going with this. All of the above was quite true, and would previously have been enough to dissuade me from trying to write unless I was already excited about writing that day -- but if I was excited about writing that day, I most likely wouldn't have noticed any of the other stuff. As I said, previously I would have let this sort of mood, the cumulative effect of all those little excuses, trip me up. But not today!

Granted, the first hour I sat at my computer was almost completely wasted. I did just about everything but write -- and then I finally managed to get control of the situation, and made myself start working. It was difficult going for another hour or so, and then I really got into it and the last two hours of the session weren't bad at all.

In all, I did make my goal of completing four pages of work, though a lot more time and effort was required for that result than I would have liked. But that's just part of being a writer. I've decided that I can't afford to always wait until the muses are smiling. If writing is going to be my career, I have to learn to press on even without my muses, when I am utterly and completely alone in the productivity-generating department.

Some days, writing is more an act of willpower than it is inspiration. I very much hope that those days remain in the minority, but I've decided that I have a job to do regardless. Even if it isn't always a romp in the park, I can't escape the fact that I can't not be a writer. So today I wrote my four pages, even though I didn't really want to, and even if tomorrow is one of the good days I'll still be glad I pushed through those four pages today. That sort of determination on an ongoing basis is the only way I'm going to reach the goals I've set for myself. I'll be interested to see if I can do it. I've never written a novel in less than a year and a half before.

The stats as of today:
-29,250 estimated words.
-33,730 actual words.
-Nearly three fully-revised-and-expanded chapters (40 pages total).
-Ten completed chapters in all (117 pages).

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Rewriting and expanding.

Okay, time for a writing progress update. I've been working on rewriting and expanding all the content that I've previously created for ALDEN RIDGE. Planning work for LUCIEN'S STORY has been on hold for a while, because I've just been so energized about my work in progress.

I have basically three reasons for undertaking this rewriting effort. First, I realized that I was underwriting in a major way in my earlier chapters. My later chapters naturally changed back into my normal, proper style, but my earlier chapters were written and paced like a thriller rather than like fantasy. You may recall that I initially thought I was writing a supernatural thriller, but now that I know I'm writing dark fantasy I had to go back and make some changes. Part of it was also just a knee-jerk reaction to being told by professional readers that I was overwriting in THE GUARDIAN. Even though I fixed that problem by my final draft, that fear of overwriting persisted into my work on ALDEN RIDGE, and the effect of that was not beneficial.

Secondly, and this is perhaps the most controversial reason for my rewrite, I'm switching from third limited to third omniscient. Oh, how decidedly un-trendy, right? Well, I have too many interlocking perspectives to be able to fit them all into isolated scenes. To properly show all the points of view that I want to show, in third limited I would have to make characters do a lot of thinking back and talking to each other about past events. This is obviously undesirable, while the nuances of the relationships are brought out especially well by having the interlocking perspectives that are possible with third omniscient. And if that style choice makes my book a little bit harder to market to agents and editors, well, then I'll just have to make the every other aspect of the writing that much more attractive. I've talked this idea over with an editor I know, and we've agreed that this is probably the best course of action for this specific book.

Lastly, I'm rewriting to add in a new sub-plot that I've recently come up with. It resolves my issues of not being entirely certain what to have Lela doing during the early parts of the book, which is important because she's always been vital to the later parts. Now I've finally figured out how to balance everything out so that she plays a continuously important role, just the same as Darrell and Elaine do.

Sometime soon, whenever I have a chance, I'll put the new version of my first chapter up on the website. I think it's one of the best things I've ever written, and I'll be very interested to see what you all think.

I have a new goal.

I decided to make this two posts, because these really are two topics. My last post was about how I am now rewriting and expanding what I've already accomplished on ALDEN RIDGE. Well, this post is about the new goal that I have set for myself in this regard.

Things are moving along with the story now; all my prior writers' block has been un-stuck, and I have every hope that this will remain the case now that I've figured out the true way that I want to tell this story. There was always something ever so slightly off with the writing style before, but now it really feels just like me again.

So, given this positive turn of events, I've decided to make the most of my new productivity, and apply some real discipline. I'm going to try to keep to a schedule of completing work on at least four pages of the book every day, for at least twenty days each month. If I can manage that, that will mean I'm completing 1,000 (estimated) words per day of writing, and 20,000 estimated words per month. That would mean a completed novel in four months.

I've never maintained such a consistent pace before, so we'll see how that goes. But when I was really going strong on THE GUARDIAN, I was writing more like 2,000 words per session. So hopefully I can keep to the proper average per month, if nothing else. I'll keep you updated on how it goes!

So far, my results are thus:
-Yesterday, I completed nine and a half pages of rewriting/expanding (2,375 estimated words!)
-Today, I completed five and a half pages of rewriting/expanding (1,375 estimated words!)

And it wasn't that I felt some compulsion to keep working, either. Writing has suddenly become fun again, and I've remembered all over again why I love doing this. For a while there I was so shaken by uncertainty that it was hard to remember the good things, but I'm well and truly through that slump, which was the worst I've ever experienced, now.

So, after today's work, my statistics for the manuscript are:
-29,000 estimated words.
-33,209 actual words.
-Two fully-revised-and-expanded chapters, plus a few pages into the third (36 pages total).
-Ten completed chapters in all (116 pages).

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Take off work to... what?

It's really sad when the government has to tell people to take off work and have sex. Apparently that's just what's happening in a province in central Russia, though, where there's a low birth rate. Women who give birth on June 12 next year will even be eligible for prizes like appliances or even a new house. I guess it's good to see that the government is taking action on an important issue like the birth rate, but it's odd that people need incentives like that. I wonder if it's a factor of economic depression, or some other sort of social phenomenon?


I've always known that I have introvert-like tendencies, but I've never thought I was a true introvert because I don't have any fear of public speaking. I'm not shy at all, in fact, and quite enjoy lecturing on technical topics in particular. I gave an hour-long presentation on Trends in Rich Client Development at a local council for technology executives just this Tuesday, in fact.

Therefore, it was with great surprise that I discovered this article from The Altantic, and this follow-up interview from several years after the article's original publication (thanks to Shrinking Violet Promotions). It turns out that I'm apparently an introvert after all, even though I have an affinity for the limelight much of the time, and am quite good at relating to people. Often I unconsciously make myself the center of gatherings (oops) by keeping up with everyone present and providing a lot of casual banter (as I've gotten older, this attention-grabbing habit has lessened steadily from its peak during my teenage years).

There are many different degrees of introverts, but I fit what are apparently the most salient factors in determining one's introvert/extrovert orientation: I don't seek out parties or the company of other people in most cases, I have no problem being alone for extended periods, and I tend to be drained, rather than energized, with extended social contact with others. Workplace contact is fine, and I've been known to run multi-day all-day meetings with large groups of clients, while retaining more stamina than any of the other attendees... but put me in a party with a group of non-family acquaintances for a couple of hours, and I'm bushed by the time I leave.

As the writer notes, this is largely because I have to consciously work to keep up the conversation when its not someone extremely familiar (family or my very best friends) or a topic with a very specific agenda (work, for the most part). I don't have to pause to think overly much when I'm talking about work things, but if you just want to chat with me about random inanities, I'm really going to have to work to hold up my own end unless we slip into anecdote-sharing mode. Then the storyteller in me takes over, and I'll be just fine until I run out of relevant anecdotes or the topic shifts again. And if it's a topic I don't have any real knowledge about, like professional sports, you're going to find me just smiling and nodding a lot (with the occasional grunts of agreement or commiseration).

Reading the interview, I was surprised to discover that my wife is not just an introvert, but also shy. I'm an introvert only, and one with an affinity for positive attention, so that's a pretty big difference in outlook. We've both always known this about ourselves and each other, but we never really had the words to put to it before. It's somehow reassuring to discover that there are a lot of others out there just like us. In college, all our friends thought we were crazy for never going to their parties. We thought they were a little crazy for being amused by the endless routine of empty socializing and drinking. Now that everyone is older, and more focused on careers and apartments/houses and serious relationships, it's a lot easier for us all to relate.

Still, it's nice to see it written in a major publication that we weren't the crazy ones. We were simply introverts, and we still are. Perhaps that's why I so very much look forward to (hopefully) someday going on book tour, even though I know how exhausting it will be for me. I imagine the majority of writers are introverts, and that those who aren't also shy probably know exactly what I'm talking about.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Estimated vs. Actual Word Count

This is something that I've been meaning to write about for the better part of a month now, but I've been putting it off because it seemed too difficult to explain. I think that this is partly what has been holding me up from posting more updates on how my writing/editing is going, also, since I need to make this post before I can properly inform you of my progress.

The issue is how word count is reported. I've always just been one to hit the "Word Count" option under the Tools menu in Word, and leave it at that. Seems simple enough, right? That's the actual word count.

Well, I've recently learned that most of the publishing industry still doesn't think in those terms -- they want to know the estimated word count, which is 250 words x number of pages in standard format (12 pt. Times New Roman, double spacing, 1" margins all around, et cetera). See Anne Mini's Word Count category for her detailed first-hand explanations of why that is, and how this works. Suffice it to say that, based on the acceptable word counts that many agents mention on websites and blog posts, and then the corresponding page counts that they mention on occasion, you'll see that Anne is right, and that there is still an overt expectation that you use estimated word count instead of actual.

This means that, when I initially queried THE GUARDIAN with 145,000 words, the agents were probably thinking the equivalent of what you would consider 162,000 "actual" words, when really I should have told them something closer to 118,900 words. When I shrunk my novel to 96,000 words, it was actually more like 84,000 words in their parlance. 80,000 words is what they would consider 320 pages, so that's right in the sweet spot of the range for most debut fiction (80,000-100,000 estimated words).

Please note that there is not absolute conversion factor between estimated and actual word count, even if your manuscript is already in perfect standard format (hence the conversion factor discrepancies between my numbers above). It's all about how many pages you wind up with, which can obviously vary a lot if most of your chapters happen to end with a page that only has one or two lines of text, versus if your chapters largely happen to end right at the bottom of each page. Depending on how many chapters you have, this could throw you off by several thousand words one way or the other.

Right now, however, my actual word count for ALDEN RIDGE is 31,287, and my estimated word count is 27,750. Previously my target was about 95,000 actual words. From now on, however, I'm going to ignore the actual word count, and just shoot for about 80,000-85,000 estimated words. That will probably work out to about the same thing.

At any rate, I figured this estimated-word-count expectation was a little-known fact in the aspiring author crowd. It's certainly not something I had ever encountered before Anne started talking about it on her blog. Hope this was useful!

Talent or Learning

Okay, this will be my last cross-post for today. If you haven't seen today's post over on the BookEnds Literary Agency blog, you should definitely check it out. It's called "Talent or Learning: What Makes a Writer an Author." This is not only a sterling example of why the BookEnds blog such a great read, it's also a really well thought-out examination of the broad ingredients for a good author (or football player, as it happens). I've seen similar discussions of this topic many times before, but this particular salvo in the ongoing debate really surprised me (in a good way), and helped me to think about the whole issue in a new light. Highly recommended.

Marie Brennan on Writing

While I'm posting links to content by others, I thought I'd point out this essay by author Marie Brennan (thanks to Chandra Rooney for pointing me to this). Marie's essay discusses the perception by non-writers that writing is easy and that it can be done by anyone. I think that Marie's response is not surprising when you think of how professional writers are likely to react to such (even indirect) aspersions on their craft, but her response is better put than any I've previously seen. Definitely an essay to bookmark and look back at whenever philistines have got you down.

Stupendously Ultimate First Line Challenge

If you're a writer and haven't yet seen Nathan Bransford's Stupendously Ultimate First Line Challenge, you should drop by and submit your first line(s), and then get ready to vote on your favorite from the finalists list later this week. There are lots of entries already, but I'm sure he'd love more. Contest closes tomorrow evening.