Reading the First Draft

After giving myself a couple weeks off for the holidays and as a break from writing in general, I’m finally sitting down to read my first draft. The idea is to read it as a reader (as well as I can) to see how the pacing feels, check for plot holes, how it holds my interest, so on.

So far, things aren’t going as well as I’d hoped.

Not to say the story is bad. It isn’t bad, but it isn’t great either. What stands out to me the most is the pacing. Through ten chapters of reading, the book has a feeling of most things being ‘glossed over.’ Details are thin. There’s a layer of impatience to everything, as if I’m hurrying to get to the next scene.

Honestly, I’m not surprised.

Writing a book is obviously much different than reading one. A scene that can take an hour or more to write and tweak and feel satisfied with can take six minutes to read. That kind of time distortion is hard to account for when deciding whether I’ve written too much or too little. On this story, I feared writing too much and boring the reading, so I tried to streamline the story as much as I could.

Mission super-duper accomplished.

Along with that, I can tell where the shortcomings of my preparation are. A lot of the characters I have were created as I went, and I didn’t spend a lot of time developing them before plopping them into the story. Because of that, they sort of evolve as time goes on. Normally, you want that kind of thing, but it doesn’t work so well for my story as it all takes place within the span of a few days. Characters don’t generally do a lot of changing in that short of time.

There are some silver linings though. I still like the story. A lot. In fact, I’m pretty happy with how it’s unfolding. My goals of creating questions and intrigue work (in my opinion). There are reasons to continue turning the page. I’m also comfortable with how it all sounds, my ‘voice.’ Though the prose still needs improvement, I only want to tighten rather than change it completely. That’s new from a couple years ago.

However, all of this means my second revision will likely take more time than I anticipate. So be it. I’m self-publishing this thing, and I want it to be the best version I can create before posting it online. I’ll do myself a huge disservice if I don’t put the proper time into it. I’d love to be done with everything before July, but with a second pass to do, more feedback from beta-readers, covers and formatting and copy editing to do… I don’t know how realistic July is. It’s a goal, one I’ve broken down into little milestones. Only time will tell if July is realistic.

Either way, I’ll keep working toward that ultimate end, and then it’s on to the next one.

Advertisements

Word Log

When I started working on my novel back in January, one thing I did to help keep myself going was keep a word log. It allowed me to track my progress (my goal being 3k words a week) and helped me realize how quickly words add up. I’m glad I did it. If you’re struggling with progress or motivation, I suggest keeping a log for yourself. It’s a nice tool for seeing how productive you have or haven’t been, and it shows you two very important things: how quickly words add up and how quickly time goes by.

I’ve left my notes intact just to give a glimpse at my own process. I initially combined Jan/Feb for reasons I can’t recall, but I stopped doing that as soon as I realized how important seeing daily progress was for me. You’ll also notice some monthly/weekly totals along with other random notes. Let it be known that I tried to I log all words written, even if they weren’t all used or some were edited out later. Work is work. If you do a log, give yourself credit for the work you do. It can feel pretty deflating to sit for two hours, write 1,400 words, but only see a net gain of 300 because of heavy editing or changes. Give yourself credit.

The format is as follows: Date (start count) : (end count) session total

 

Jan/Feb total: 14400 – Chp 1-3

Mar 12 (0) : (840)

Mar 13 (840) : (2350) 1500

Mar 14 (2350) : (3350) 1000

Mar 20 (3350) : (3850) 500

Mar 21 (3870) : (4760) 900

Mar 26 Chp 5 rewrite (5460) 700

Mar 27 Chp 6 0 : (1560) 1560

Mar 27 (1560) : (2790) 1230

End of March total: 23,263 (good fucking job man. Keep it up)

Apr 3 (2790) : (3375) 600

Apr 4 (3375) : (4500) 1225 (chp6 done)

Apr 5 chp7 (0) : (1525) 1525

Apr 10 (1525) : (2980) 1460 (chp 7 done – update count after final review)

Apr 11 (0) : (900) 900

Apr 12 (900) : (1230) 330

Apr 17 (1230) : (3280) 2050

Apr 19 (3280) : (4220) 940

End of April total: 32,293 (Pretty good considering two weeks of no writing @NJ. Keep pushing)

May 7 (4107) : (4430) 300 – lots of rewriting chp 8 though

May 8/9 (4430) : (5825 end chp 8) 1400 + 300

May 10 (300) : (1380) 1080

May 16 (1380) : (2380) 1000

May 17 (2380) : (2570 end chp 9) 200

May 17 (0) : (1900) 2100 for the night

May 21 (1900) : (3250) 1350

May 22 (3250) : (4590) 1340

May 23 (4590) : (5260 end 10) (880) 1500 night total

May 24 (880) : (1980 end 11) 1100 (5.3k weekend!!!! Good fucking game! You are proud of you!)

May 30 (0) : (270 end 12)

May 31 (0) : (1100) 1100

End of May total: 45,185… fuckin’ A. Amazing job. 3k short of schedule. Maybe we can make that up in June…

Jun 6 (1094) : (3550) 2500…. Booyah

Jun 7 (3550) : (4020 +rewrite) 500 – 3k total for the week (two days)

Jun 12 (0) : (750) 750

Jun 13 (750) : (2250) 1500

Jun 14 (2250) : (2300 end of 14) 50 (0) – (800) 850 total (3.1k week)

Jun 20 (revision work 13:4005) : (4216) 200

Jun 20 (revision work 14:2300) : (2756) 450 : 650 total words for 20th

Jun 21 (revision work 14:2750) : (3220) 450

Jun 21 back to chp 15 (800) : (1840) 1000 (2.1k for the week, not great but father’s day and lots of revision work. Good effort. Have a beer or four)

Jun 27 (0) : (1360) 1360

Jun 28 (1360) : (2630) 1300

Jun 28 (0) : (200) 200  2.8k week

End of June total: 56,184… You’re doing it. You’re literally writing a book. 4k words shy of your timeline goal, but so the fuck what. You’re. Doing. IT.

Jul 1 (215 chp 17) : (975) 750

July 2 (975) : (1420) 450

July 5 (1420) : (1837) 400 end 17 (1.6k week, not good, but keep going. I blame 4th of July)

July 10 (2828 chp16) : (2733… yay revision word count loss!) end 16

July 10 (1837 chp 17) : (2500) 660 …not bad, lots of work done with 16 at least.

July 11 (2500) : (3440) 1k-ish. ..maybe the end of 17

July 12 (3440) : (3560 end chp 17) 120

July 12 (0) : (790) 2.5k week…. Not bad. Still under the goal, but things are getting tighter. More planning required. So it goes.

Aug 6 (3576 – 17 rewrite) : (3649)

Aug 7 (3649 – 17 rewrite still) : (4170 – 17 rewrite done) 600 added to the chapter

Aug 7 (788) : (1460) 700ish, 1300ish for the night

Aug 8 (1460) : (2090) 600

Aug 8 (0) : (950) 2850 words for the week

Aug 21 (950) : (1870) 900

Aug 21 (1870) : (2630) 750

Aug 22 (2630) : (2600) end 19

Aug 22 (0) : (980) 2600 ish for the week. Not bad for two nights of writing (important to get 3)

Aug 27 rewrites… : Chp 17 – 50ish words, chp 18 (2060 – 2600 – 2230) about 550ish written, chp 19 (2610 – 3100 – 2740) about 120… so total rewrite count is, call it 750

Aug 28 (0) : chp 20 (1550)

Aug 29 (1550) : (2800) 3550 for the week

Sep 5 (2800) : (3630 end 20) 1000 written after rewrite

Sep 5 (0) : (200)

Sep 6 (200) : (550 end 21?) 475 written after changes

Sep 6 (0 chp 22) : (1380) 3050 for the week

Sep 18 : 200 for attempting another version of 21

Sep 19 (chp 21 vr3 – 0) : 150 + (500)

Sep 19 (1380) : (1580) 200

Sep 20 (1580) : (2600) 1000 2k week

Sep 24 chp 22 rewrite (0) : (1850) 1850

Sep 25 (1850) : (3600) 1750

Sep 26 (3600) : (4600) 1000

Sep 27 (4600) : (5510 written, 5050 total) 450

Sep 27 (chp 23 0) : (275) 1300 written for the day

Sep 27 (chp 24 0) : (575) 1800ish daily total? Almost 6k for the week… fuck yeah (‘murica)

Oct 2 (chp 25 – 0) : (1750) 1750

Oct 3 (1750) : (2070) 300

Oct 3 (chp 24 575) : (1175) 600

Oct 4 (chp 25 2070) : (3105) 925 …3700 week, thumbs up

Oct 17 (3105) : (3470) 370

Oct 17 (chp 26 0) : 170  450 night total… and kinda stuck again 😦

Oct 18 26 merged into 25 (3670) : (4840) 1150… 1600 week

Oct 23 (4840, back into 25) : (5500) 650

Oct 24 (5500) : (6022) 525    1175 written (5290 actual end)

Oct 24 (chp 26 0) : (990) 2160

Oct 25 (990) : (1900) 900  3.1k week

Oct 30 (1900) : (2850) 950

Oct 31 (2850) : (2950) 100

Nov 14 Chp 25 rework (5317) : 5860 (550)

Nov 14 Chp 26 rework (2930) : 3300 (350)

Nov 15 Ending section (0) : (1280)

Nov 21 Wynn’s morning (0) : (550) 550

Nov 21 Ending Section (1280) : (2070) 700

Nov 23 chp 25 rework (5863) : (6030) 150  (final 4440)

Nov 23 chp 26 rework (3300) : (4125) 825

Nov 24 chp 26 rework (4125) : (5275) 1150   about 3.3k week… back on track

Nov 27 chp 26 (5270) : (6230) 950

Nov 27 chp 26 all additions and cuts made (3930) : (4060) 150

Nov 28 (4060) : (4330) 300 : (5745 section added) : (6070) 325: 625 total

Nov 28 chp 27 (0) : (600) 2300 week

Dec 4 chp 26 change draft (0) : (1410)

Dec 5 26 change (1410) : (1450)

Dec 5 freewrite (anna dreams) (0) : (330)

Dec 5 Wynn’s nightmare (0) : (1000)

Dec 11 chp 27 rewrite (0) : (1340) before dream addition

Dec 11 chp 27 (2345) : (2800) 450 + 1350 – call it 1800

Chp 27 final count (2617)

Dec 12 chp 28 (0) : (290) 2.1k night… good job, almost there

Dec 13 chp 28 (290) : (1520) 1250

Dec 13 chp 29 (0) : (740) 4.1k week

Dec 18 chp 29 (740) : (1760) 1000

Dec 19 chp 29 (1760) : (3290) 1550

Dec 19 chp 30 (567) : (560)

Dec 20 chp 30 (560) : (1270) 700

Dec 20 chp 29 (3290) : (3420) 150  3.4k

The End

I’ve done it. I’ve completed the first draft of my very first novel.

I’d love to express jovial excitement, but I’m pretty tired. It’s just after 6AM. I’ve been working for the last five hours. I’m happy but tired. This is a journey that began back in January, and though the first draft is done, more work remains. Another pass. More details added. More feedback. I’m still months away from self-publication, but holy shit… this is pretty amazing.

Total word count for the first draft: 95,222 across 30 chapters.

 

I’m not sure when I’ll get around to posting it since the holidays are in full swing over the next few weeks, but I’ll post my writing log when I can. I purposely kept track of my word count per session, each day, each week, to both track my progress and give myself motivation to keep moving forward. Looking back, I’m so glad I did it. Hopefully it will inspire others to put in chunks of time here and there, as it all adds up in the end.

Tuesday (Flash Fiction)

In the summer heat, flies buzz in dazed loops, circling, searching for a pocket of relief never found. The shades are drawn, long stretches of manila that glow like bricks of gold under the relentless sunlight pounding through the windows. A man stands at the counter, waiting, looking through a thick pane of glass laying atop post cards from every place in the world one would rather be—Hello from the Grand Canyon, Christmas in Denmark, a bright red thong strolling along a white beach in Costa Rica. Again, he rings a tarnished bell, and the sound coming from it is flat, dull. Perhaps even the metal has succumb to the heat.

The space behind the counter remains empty. The wood-paneled door stays closed. Bob leans forward to sneak a peak at an old television monitoring two security cameras. One is fixed on the gasoline pumps, the black and white screen turning his silver coupe a dull gray. The other stares at an empty lot in back of the small building. Dying weeds lean and wilt. Dust lies in waiting, anxious for a breeze or trudging boots.

He leans back, rings the bell again and again, and sees a sticky note. It’s yellow color is faded and layered with dust. Failing adhesive struggles to keep it stuck to the wall. Scrawled across the paper is a single word: Tuesday.

Below the note, a light switch flipped off.

Bob looks around and waits. The air inside the old, neglected shop is heavy and stale. A confused fly buzzes by, buzzing left, buzzing right, questioning the meaning of life. His eyes land on the note and switch again. Tuesday stares back, and curiosity grips him. Bob searches, sees no one, and leans over the counter. Stretching, reaching, he flips the switch on.

It clicks up.

A humming passes through the walls, low and distant. Somewhere nearby, a door opens with a thump. Bob looks to the cameras again, hoping for a glimpse of what could be. His car waits, gas nozzle dipped into the tank but not pumping. The back lot remains empty, the dust still waiting.

Then she’s there, stepping through the small shop like a ghost thrust back into the land of the living, awkward and confused. Her plastic hands articulate. Her legs, metal rods with humming servos and tiny hydraulics, thump-thump across the worn linoleum. The lenses set within her eye-sockets adjust and focus with subtle clicks. The robot stomps through the small shop quickly and exits, the small doorbell clanging with her passing.

With his mouth hanging open, Bob stands and blinks. He looks at the security monitor and sees the robot approach his car, test the nozzle, and turn to the pump. He watches in amazement as the robot begins servicing his vehicle.

“The hell!” shouts a voice as the door behind the counter slides open. A middle-aged man appears with sandbags under his eyes and confusion on his face. “What’d you do!?”

“The pump,” Bob says, struggling with the words, his eyes locked on the aged television. “I needed gas.”

“No shit,” says the man. “Didn’t you see the sign? We’re closed!”

Bob shakes his head and moves his lips, but no words follow. Outside, the robot checks his tires, cleans his windshield. “That’s amazing,” he finally says in an astonished whisper. “Do you call that Tuesday?”

“No, numbnuts,” the man behind the counter says. “I call it trespassing. Now get the hell outta my shop!”

Seeing the robot diligently remove the tiny spots from his windshield, Bob nods. “Yeah, sure.”

Seeing his words unheard, the man glares. “Did you hear me!?”

Bobs nods again.

“That’s it,” says the man. He leans down and speaks into a microphone behind the counter. “Tuesday, perform operation Scratching Post!”

“Scratching Post?” Bob asks.

The man smiles and mimics a cat clawing at invisible furniture. Bob looks to the screen and sees Tuesday pause in her windshield cleaning, re-orientate, and then drag metal fingers along the side of his car. On the monitor, the deep gouges in the metal appear as white lines. From the windows, slipping in through the manila shades shining like gold, he hears the shrill shrieking of metal on metal.

“Helluva Tuesday,” Bob says.

 

In Regards to Flash Fiction (and other things)

Over the last week or so I’ve made several attempts to write up a flash fiction, and while some ideas have come along, nothing has made it through my normal process entirely. I have a couple drafts done, but when I read them, I dislike them. They seem flat. Typical. A bit mundane.

I normally wouldn’t care about this, or bother mentioning it, but my postings have withered away to almost nothing, and that’s something I’m attempting to remedy (with no success). I’d like people to have a reason to swing by now and then, but I’ve not given them that reason, and no one else can. It obviously falls to me.

I’ll keep trying. Effort eventually leads to results.

As far as writing in general, I continue making progress on my book. I’m closing in on the final chapters now. Exciting stuff. Last week was a bit rough for progress, but this week has made up for it. It’s been interesting to see the story become more difficult from a writing point of view as I come closer to the end. As more things lock in and become permanent, I have less freedom. Fewer options. It’s been interesting struggling with that.

I’ve also been going through a bit of personal revelation. I’m starting to understand why I’m bothering with any of this at all. I’m beginning to see what I would like to become and the reasons behind it all. The more I think on it, the more I realize I want to write words that eventually reach people and help them, comfort them. I want to touch people’s lives (as pompous as that may sound), give them reason to believe in themselves, and inspire them to follow their dreams, whatever they may be.

How ironic that I’ve come to realize this at the tail end of my first book, a horror story. Oh well.

Also a little ironic that I’ve already decided on writing a second book to go with this first one in order to explore some of the characters further. Although, as of now, the path I’m on makes sense to me. I can see where it goes from here, where I am and where I want to be. Let these two horror novels be what they will. Let them teach me more about my processes, what I shouldn’t do and what I can do better. Maybe by the time I start moving into the literature I feel I’m supposed to write, would really like to write, my ability will be enough to find others.

And if not, I’m no worse for the wear.

To Shine (Flash Fiction)

There are times when I wonder if the sun feels alone. Suspended in so much dark and cold, does it burn with tremendous fury only to feel its light is cast for no one? Does it look across an empty reach of galaxy to see billions of stars clustered together like cities, like families, and wonder, Why must I burn alone?

Imprisoned by nothingness, does it ever consider:

I’ll stop then. I’ll quit. My energy is wasted, for I am beyond reach. I’m alone and lost and only glow toward destructive end. I shine without reason, for my warmth surely freezes before reaching those distant bodies. What use is there in projecting such energy? For what purpose do I exist?

What horrific tragedy.

While suffering in so much dark and cold, I hope our light reflecting back is enough for it to see the smiles and tears and joyous memories its tremendous fury brings. It pours onto friendships and families. It smothers young lovers with warmth while they stroll along sandy beaches, and as it fades into the sea, those lovers kiss it goodnight.

There are times I’ll search for the faintest star my eye can find and marvel at the distance between. Time suspends itself like a breath only held for so long, a wondrous moment that is soon gone. As I stare in astonishment, struggling to fathom a place in this monumental existence, I’ll often wonder, For what purpose?

As if sent from those distant lights, an answer will crawl into my mind.

To shine.

So burn brightly, dearest sun and furthest stars. Burn for those you cannot see or ever know. Send your warmth and love and fear not where it goes. Shine and send your brightness though you may never know why. Shine so your light may stretch through the ages, pierce the darkness, and bring life to worlds unimaginable.

Still Alive

A quick check in. Oh how the time slips by…

Still writing, still chipping away at the ol’ book. I’ve attempted a couple Flash Fictions as well, but they didn’t quite turn out. They’re ‘shelved’ for now, which is where material goes to eventually be forgotten forever.

I’ve been having a harder to writing lately. I work nights, and I try to keep my sleep schedule as intact as possible during my nights off, but life gets in the way and makes that tricky. That gives writing the double-whammy of both interfering with my time and my sleep. Writing material I’m satisfied with is difficult enough, doing so while tired is another level entirely.

I’m keeping to my goal (mostly) of 3k words a week. Just keep pushing.

That goes for you as well, whoever you are and whatever you pursue. Just keep pushing.

Beside the River (Flash Fiction)

We strolled together beside the river with our fingers in a loose tangle. Our arms swung with lackadaisical steps, and the midday breeze seemed to sigh at our casualness. We found a place to sit beneath the birch trees, white trucks scarred with the initials of couples come and gone. The trees seemed none the worse from the mild mutilation, but I wondered if the love had endured.

We shared a delightfully pastry, two spoons for one treat. I saw your eyes and watched you smile as you looked out over the river. I saw the wind caress your cheeks and stir your hair and I could tell by your demeanor you were at peace.

And so was I.

It was interesting to me that we could feel so comfortable there, a continent and ocean away from the place we call home. An ease settled around us, and you sighed and mentioned how nice it felt. I agreed then, but for reasons I think different from your own. You were relaxed and enjoying the moment, but I was somewhere else.

I was wondering how it came to be that I could ever be so lucky to have you there with me. My closest friend, my life support, the foundation of all my existence. You asked if I wanted the last bite, and I said, no, go ahead and take it. After all, why should it be me to enjoy it when I already have everything? At the time, it felt a bit like gluttony.

And so we sat beside the river, with calm in our hearts and peace rippling along our banks. The sun played hide and seek behind the clouds, and the birch trees whispered with the breeze. We sat in silence, you and I, friends forever side by side. Together, we tangled our fingers and marveled at the beauty that had become our lives.

The Last Harvest (Image Prompt)

It happened under whirring servos and gray clouds, and it happened without ceremony or celebration. Together, hydraulic fluid and blood spilled onto the snow, fresh and white and clean, like the passing of a torch. And that was that. One screamed in terror while another executed lines of code in silence.

Lifeform extinct.
Program complete.

It’s curious how polarizing remorse can be in a given instance. So often, it comes down to perspective. On one side, the last of living men only felt the crushing weight of regret, of mistakes made and consequences now permanent. Remorse consumed him. On the other, barely a hit of mechanical satisfaction. Nothing more than a troublesome checklist where the last box was finally ticked. Remorse was impossible.

And with the falling snow, evolution continued.

Link to artist: http://cobaltplasma.deviantart.com/art/Last-Harvest-693682243

Last Harvest by cobaltplasma

Paris

I’m home again after spending eight days in Paris. It was a wonderful trip, one that I could write about for hours upon hours. If you’ve ever been on the fence about visiting, please consider my opinion of Paris to be a violent shove toward the side of going. It’s an amazing city with an unbelievable amount of things to see, and delicious food to boot. I typically hate cities as I feel too compressed, but Paris maintains a low skyline by law, so it’s a bit like being in a mini-Cooper with the top off and the windows down. It’s tight, but you can still breathe and feel the wind in your hair (or across your scalp in my case).

I don’t have photos of this particularly, but one of my favorite aspects of Paris was how many people seem to get out and enjoy the city, and that the city allows them to do so. My wife and I went to the River Seine multiple times to sit and watch the boats go by, each time doing so with wine or snacks (or both). We were among many. There are sections of the riverbank where visitors setup PA systems for live bands and dance the night away. Others bring full course meals and sit with their friends for hours. It was fantastic to see and a wonderful change of pace from what you typically experience in the parks and beaches around the US (no glass bottles, no alcohol, no loitering, no entrance after sundown, no talking, no fun, etc).

Go to Paris, please.

Now for a few photos.

20170722_092852.jpg

Our trip was a guided tour through Trafalgar (our second time using the company with zero regrets, and this trip particularly had an excellent tour director), and one of the many places we visited was Monet’s Gardens. It was serene in its beauty and very easy to understand Monet’s inspiration.

20170722_091533.jpg

The path leading to his home.

20170718_125750.jpg

We spent a full day walking among various sites of the Normandy invasion, but Omaha beach (above) stuck with me the most. There are two reasons. One, it’s nothing but a shooting alley, and the Germans took full advantage of that. Standing on that beach, one that is now populated with families and playing children (something our fallen soldiers can surely appreciate), it was impossible to not feel the weight of death that was so easily wrought there. The second reason is that all along this beach, several homes openly display the American flag beside their own French colors. 70 years later, and the people still remember and respect what happened there. It was moving to see such honor.

20170719_115110.jpg

The Palace of Versailles is amazing in its own right, but what impressed my wife and I even more were the grounds the palace sits upon, over 215,000 acres. This one photo is barely a glimpse of what they hold, but it does give you the general idea of the size.

I’ll stop here, as I don’t want to turn this into a travel blog, but I did want to share. I loved my trip, and I have every intention of going back, and hopefully soon. Expect some Flash Fiction that will obviously draw inspiration from this visit.