Random Thoughts

about reading, writing, and anything else that interests me

Archive for the category “writing”

Another month of writing

It seems odd to me to be writing about my writing closer to the middle of the month than to the end of it, but that’s when I set the goal, so it’s when I have to report on progress.

Last month I set what I thought were lame but more realistic goals for myself. They were:

  • write 1000 words every day
  • get third book up from it’s current 8900 words to 35,000

Yes, they were lame, but lame as they were, they were still not realistic!

The good news is that I wrote every day again. That is the main goal, as far as I am concerned. There were a couple days it was a struggle and I ended up writing a couple hundred words at 11 pm, but I did it.

Most days, I did not write 1000 words. Some days I did. In so doing, I took the book from 8,900 words to 22,028 words. Not 35,000 to be sure, but I added more than 13,000 words to it in a month.

So what do I want to work toward in this next month? I think 1000 words a day is still kind of a low bar and one that I will keep aiming for until most days I surpass it. And since I wrote 13,000 words on the book, I want to aim for more than that this month. I think I should strive to reach 40,000 words. That’s only about 5000 more than I wrote this month, so it should be doable.

But like I said, the real goal is to keep writing every day. I am now teaching 2 online classes, so I am a lot busier, but there is really no excuse for not doing it. Let’s see if I can.

 

Some amazing photos!

Courtesy of The Portalist, I learned of NASA’s searchable database of space photos. The post on The Portalist had enough photos to make it a no-brainer to go there and check it out.

Going to the main page was not as exciting as I had hoped. It had lots of pictures of astronauts standing around. Then I realized those were just the most recent uploads. All I had to do was click on “Most Popular” and I was rewarded with an array of truly amazing photos. I clicked on one that was a picture of a baby owl in a hangar at Kennedy Space Center. That made me decide to search for other bird pictures, but to see if there were others.  And there were. 894 of them!

These pictures offer a wealth of information in addition to some beautiful views. I searched for Pluto and found there were 491 photos. Most of the photos are accompanied by an explanation of what you are looking at.  So I found this photo:

Pluto badlands.jpg

The description called it the “badlands of Pluto” and told me there was a 1.2 mile high cliff and that the canton system runs for hundreds of miles. That information sparked my imagination, and I suddenly began thinking of a western-themed novel set on Pluto. Then I saw another photo that made it look like there were roads or at least paths on Pluto. And what are those things the road is connecting? Maybe one is a homestead and the other is a town. Or maybe…

Pluto roads.jpg

Now maybe that isn’t a winning idea, but I think you get what I am trying to say: These photos and accompanying information are a tremendous resource for writers! I am going to go back and spend more time on the site!

Another month gone!

The second month of my writing habit development program has ended, and the results have been mixed. Here goes:

On a positive note, I wrote every single day. That, after all, is the primary goal, so I am happy. I know there were several days when I only wrote because I had made that commitment to myself. It would have been so much easier to read a book or play a game or do nothing at all. But I forced myself to open up the computer and write. And I am glad I did. It has been a long time since I can say I have written every day for what is not two months.

My other goals for the month were:

  • write 2000 words every day
  • finish second draft of the second book
  • get third book up from it’s current 3000 words to 30,000
  • continue to develop the blog for the books

Here I was not so successful. While I wrote every day, I only made 2000 words once. Most days I didn’t even make 1000 words! In part I think that is due to the fact that I am early into the third book, and the story isn’t flowing like I would like it to be yet. I know writing is the way to get the story flowing, but I haven’t been as successful with that as I would have liked. As a result, I am nowhere near 30,000 words on the third book. But I have almost tripled its length. And the story is starting to come together more in my mind, so hopefully this next month will be better.

I finished the second draft of the second book, and I am very pleased with how it is going. For the time being, I have kind of put it aside, but I may get back to it before this next month is over. I added almost 5000 words to it last month.

I have added to the blog for these books, too. There is still more that could be done and I hope to work on it more this next month, too.

So now the question is what will my goals be for this next month. This is what I am thinking:

  • write 1000 words every day
  • get third book up from it’s current 8900 words to 35,000

That sounds pretty lame even to me, but I think these are more realistic goals for me than last month’s were. Let’s see if I am right!

 

 

More from George Saunders

Another great interview with George Saunders on The Rumpus.net. He says this:

You probably can’t change your innate level of imaginative-ness, but I think it’s the persistence in the activity that burns through your lame answers until you make space for an answer that seems original. That’s consoling because that means you just have to work.

I loved that! My writing is still so full of lame answers that I am embarrassed. But if I am willing to put in the work, maybe there is hope!

I’ve always felt I wasn’t very imaginative. That always made the possibility of writing fiction seem so daunting. But if work can make up for some of that, maybe I can produce good writing anyway.

Saunders’ responses to questions in this interview and the article in The Guardian have both been extremely encouraging. His approach to revision is one I had already begun to embrace, and I think I understand more clearly what it is I am trying to do now. It will be interesting to see what comes of it.

 

An article you might want to read

The Guardian has an excellent article by George Saunders, author of Lincoln in the Bardo, entitled What Writers Really Do When They Write.

He describes the work of an artist:

What does an artist do, mostly? She tweaks that which she’s already done. There are those moments when we sit before a blank page, but mostly we’re adjusting that which is already there. The writer revises, the painter touches up, the director edits, the musician overdubs.

The piece discusses that tweaking, that revision at length. This, for me, was the really interesting part. As I am working on revision of our second book, I see that I am already doing some of what he talks about. But I got a better understanding for how to do it and  why it is important from reading this.

He goes on to say:

Any work of art quickly reveals itself to be a linked system of problems.

I hadn’t really thought about my writing in that way. I can see, though, that there is a seemingly endless system of problems — or maybe questions is a better word: How does he do that? Why does he do that? What would happen if he did this instead?  And I think that the more questions I ask and answer, the better the story will be.

I am probably never going to be the kind of writer Saunders is. OK, who am I kidding? There is no question about it. I WILL NEVER be the kind of writer he is.  But I believe that  I better understand what it is I am trying to do now. And that should make me a better writer eventually. I hope so!

All in all, I thought it was a fascinating article. I hope you will, too!

My writing

Last month I read Lifelong Writing Habit: The Secret to Writing Every Day by Chris Fox and as I did, I set myself some writing goals. One of them was to check back in with myself one month later to see how I was doing with the goals and, more importantly, whether or not I was still writing.

My goals involved writing at certain times of the day (7-8:30 am) and a certain number of words per day (2000). I was going to finish editing our first book by 2/15 and be be well on my way to finishing the first drat of the second book.

Well, it didn’t exactly work out like that. I have written a few days from 7-8:30, but not many. I quickly decided that I wasn’t going to stress about that goal. I am still usually writing in the morning, but if that doesn’t happen, I write in the afternoon. The important thing, as far as I am concerned, is that I have written every single day since January 19. It has been a long time since I have written every day, and it feels good to be back in the groove.

I also failed pretty big on the word count goal. I only wrote 200o words on 8 days. But, in 30 days I have written over 35,000 words. Not a record, by any means, but I am happy with it.

Part of my problem with word count was the fact that I actually exceeded  one goal. I finished the first draft of the second book on February 1, not March 15 as I had thought I would. Once I didn’t have that bog project to work on, writing 200 words a day got harder. I started on the third book but am just writing scenes. I think I could probably start writing more on it, and I prob ably will this next month.

The first book hasn’t moved ahead hardly at all, and it should have been completely finished by now. I am a little bummed about that but not overly so. I think that having the second one ready to go and being able to publish two books almost at once is a good idea.

So what are my goals for this next month? I want to:

  • write 2000 words every day
  • finish second draft of the second book
  • get third book up from it’s current 3000 words to 30,000
  • continue to develop the blog for the books

That should be doable if I set my mind to it. Starting in April I will be busy teaching again, so I need to get as much done before then as I can.

I am not setting goals about finalizing the first book because it still requires input from my son. I have no control over that right now, so why stress. I am also not setting time of day goals. It just doesn’t work.

I’ll try to remember to come back next month and let you know how I’m doing. Hopefully, it will be good!

 

 

Update on the writing

It’s been a long time since I was brave enough to talk about my writing. Too long. But here I am to say that I think the first book is done and ready to go. We have to do one more read through, but it is all formatted and just waiting for the green light.

I am so happy about this. It has been too long.

Now, I just need to get the second book finished! It’s sitting at over 31,000 words, about a third done. Let’s see how it goes over the next few weeks.

Learning from others

As I opened WordPress tonight and began reading, I came across a post by Allison K Williams called Turns Out the Problem was Me. In the post she describes the process of discovering that her memoir wasn’t as good as she had thought it was. It is a great post, and I hope you will read it.

After ten years and 96,000 words, Ms Williams realized that she would never be able to publish the book.  Her reaction was probably a lot more sane than mine would have been:

And boy, it sucks to realize that ten years of work wasn’t enough…

I have been having that same thought about the book my son and I have been working on off and on for about 7 years now. The more I read about writing, the more flaws I see in that first book.  (I am still telling myself that the second one, which is at about 31,000 so far is much better!)  As I try to decide whether or not it is worth trying to “fix” the first one, this post brought me some insight that I think I needed.

Williams says that in spite of what might be seen as a failure, she has really come out ahead. She says:

 I still won.

I won the ability to write a whole book–now I know I can. … I won finding out people liked the underlying story, that when workshop teachers and guest writers asked me about the topic of the book they got excited, that somewhere in that 96K is a set of facts worth sharing in some way. I won building a writing habit and sitting down every day alone or with a writer friend and living a life that feels like a writer’s life. … I won being able to step back and look at my work with a critical eye and say, “close but no cigar,” and next time I’ll know it faster. I won knowing that failure isn’t death, or even death to my career.

And that is what I needed to hear, I think. The ability to write a whole book – even a not very good one – is something not everyone has. I have learned so much from the process of writing that book, and no one can ever take that from me.

And there really is no reason why we can’t restructure this book and make it a better book and then publish it. We haven’t burned any bridges with it yet.

But even if we don’t, even if we never publish this or any other book, we have written an 81,000 word novel. I am proud of that fact. But, as Williams, says,

Next project, here I come.

Update on the writing

I am happy to report that I have been busy working on the novels. My son and I worked out some details that we needed to in the first book, and while I am waiting for him to complete the final fight scene, I am back to work on the second book.  I have actually written over 8000 words in just over a week.

I have to credit one of the books I read this month, Killing the Top Ten Sacred Cows of Publishing by Dean Wesley Smith, with encouraging me to really get going on this again.  He breaks the writing of a novel down into words per day and days to completion. If you write 250 words a day, about 15 minutes a day, you’ll write a book in a year. That seemed real attainable to me. and it got me going.

He goes on to say

Oh, my, if I worked really, really hard and managed to get 30 minutes of writing in per day, I could finish two novels in a year.

Thirty minutes. That’s all it takes. So I have been trying to write for at least 30 minutes a day, every day. And it has been great.

I find myself getting stuck from time to time, not sure where the story is going. I then open my journal and start exploring the possibilities. Or I get up and take a break to think it through. But I come back to it. And so far it is working.

I am also learning to write scenes out of order with this book. I don’t know why I didn’t do it before — except by accident when I realized something I had already written didn’t really belong where it was. I am a pretty linear person, but this non-linear approach is making the writing easier.

This book has really opened my eyes about a lot of things. I recommend it to anyone who has gotten bogged down in their writing.

I am truly excited about writing again. And that makes me very happy.

I can’t believe it has been two months!

Well, actually, it was four days short of two months.  But anyway… That is how long I had gone without working on the novel.  I am embarrassed to admit it, but it is all too true.

I have read a couple books lately about writing — one about writing fight scenes that may prove helpful — and they have gotten me going on the book again.

What I am coming to believe is that we have to just finish this book and get going on the next.  I got a glimpse of that at Bubonicon in August.  Why was I sitting there listening to people talk about writing rather than writing myself?  I don’t mean to imply that I know everything there is to know or that I didn’t learn valuable information at the con, but there comes a time when you have to just sit down and do the hard work of writing.

And it doesn’t stop there.  I also read The Pursuit of Perfection and How It Harms Writers by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, which made me realize that if I want to seriously be a writer, I have to write, publish, write, publish, and write some more.  She talks about writing as a career.  And while I am not planning to support myself with my writing at this stage of my life, I would like to publish and make a little money.  And that takes multiple books.

So, time to get off the blog and back to the book.  See you later!

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