Category Archives: Egregious Cheerleading

Deadlines! Sure!

A few days ago, I realized that it was 50 days until our departure for the Origins tabletop-gaming convention. (The con starts a day or two earlier, but we aren’t going for 100% of its run time.)

I know an arbitrary deadline when I see one, so I decided that I’d attempt to finish the first draft of Book 3 before we left. This is a pretty tall order, but not impossible. Even my minimum of 500 words a day would stack up to 25,000 words.

This is just the first draft, mind you; the comparable draft of Book 2 was missing about a quarter of the chapters that appear in the final draft, mostly in the first act. This is a raggedy sprint to the finish line, however incomplete.

It’s going pretty okay so far, though there are sections with weird gaps and rewrites, and I’m currently working on two different chapters at once thanks to my weird workflow/habits. Still, it’s progressing. And hey, if I don’t make the deadline, I will still have a lot more written than I would otherwise. That doesn’t unwrite itself just because I miss an arbitrary cutoff.

45 days to go. We’ll see.

Three hundred books, five hundred days, lots of words

According to my calculations (?), between ebooks, paperbacks, and the two versions of Kindle Unlimited so far, 300 copies of The Healers’ Road have been purchased and/or read as of this week. (As the owner of a towering TBR stack, I do not expect everyone who’s bought it to have read it already.)

Woohoo? Maybe. Sure, why  not.

Coincidentally, as of yesterday the book is now 500 days old. That feels like forever, in some ways. I’m several weeks into edits on its sequel, and I’ve finished two and a half drafts of another novel* and a few short stories and novellas** since then, along with a boatload of test run / futzing around scenes – “well, this doesn’t fit into a real outline yet, but what would happen if I threw these characters into this situation?”

* as yet unfinished / ** as yet unpublished

Back when I listened to other people, I was told over and over that an indie book has no more than 30 days in its life cycle. You absolutely must hit a particular Hot New Releases chart on Amazon, immediately, and once you slide off it, you better have another book out or nobody is ever going to want to read your stuff again. Because that’s all there is, that one chart. That is the world in which indie books live, and there is no other. Just that chart.

My book is 16 times that age now. It’s apparently a Galapogos tortoise of a book. The weird thing is, though, out of those 300 copies, you know how many were in that magic 30-day window? Ten. So… I don’t know.

I’d still like to write faster, if I could. I’m aware that since I work so slowly, the first year’s worth of THR readers are going to have no memory whatsoever of me or my book. I built that uphill climb with my snail’s pace, and I’m going to have to live with it.

But hey, consider that I started the first proto-drafts of THR in 2006 and finished it in 2014, then wrapped up THH in roughly a year and a half (fingers crossed). That’s over five times faster. If that pace kept up, I’d have another book out in three months. And yeah, that probably won’t happen – but I learn something every time that gets applied to everything that comes after. I guess the goal is to take <1.5 more years to wrap up the trilogy, and then <1.5 years to start the next part, whether that’s Rone’s story or someone else’s.

Where was I. 0.6 copies a day. It’s nowhere near the New York Times list, but it’s still tortoising along.

I am excited and grateful for every blip on my sleepy little graph. I hope every person who takes a chance on my two cranky jerkface characters has a good time, whether they found the book 2 days or 250 days after it was released.

I’m not in any hurry. The books will be there. The journey starts over and over. That’s one thing I love about books.

Dumping out buckets of ideas

It’s cold/flu season, I’m waiting on comments from the beta readers (no guilt, no rush, y’all), and I’m still trying to write 500 words a day with no plan or outline for what to write next. It’s one of those weeks.

Retro-style guitars? Retro-style guitars. 15 minutes of this and I’m ready to tackle some non-specific goal-type thing.

What I’m actually doing is a tentative wind-up for Agna’s Story part 3, if it will exist (I’m still not 100% convinced it “should”). It goes like this:

  • List the characters. Major to start with, then the supporting characters. Anybody. If they aren’t important, we’ll figure that out later.
  • What do these people want? Specifically, non-specifically. Even if they don’t know they want it (we have a lot of that in my stories). This includes avoidant “goals,” like “keep anyone from finding out my deadly secret.”
  • Are any of these goals mutually exclusive, or do they interfere with one another in any way? Across characters or within the same character. I want to be a world-class accordionist, but also the dictator of a small island nation, and I don’t have time/energy to do both.
  • Apart from mutual exclusivity as above, what might stop the characters from reaching these goals? People, situations or events.
    • Sometimes there really isn’t anything; this is just something they’re working toward. In that case, that goal is going to be just a backdrop. Ex. I’m trying to pay off my mortgage. I am steadily employed, so that isn’t in peril right now. I won’t make decisions that get in the way of that goal (like running off to join the circus), but it isn’t really something worth watching by itself. These goals are like guardrails; they mark out characters’ limits. They are not fun to watch all on their own, but they can exist in the background.
    • Personally, I have to watch out while playing around in this part of the process. If my moods are out of whack that day, I get too fatalistic and the exercise goes to hell in a handbasket.
  • How do we show these ideas happening? Ex. how do you express “this character wants to win a gold medal in curling”? Well, they might be getting up early to practice, or taking part in a regional championship, or taping up posters of past curling champions. This tends to look pretty dumb/obvious for starters. We’re brainstorming here.
  • Are there backdrops or feelings in the atmosphere, ex. is the town suffused with existential dread, is the local newspaper out to slander one of the characters? If so, what’s the idea being expressed, and who gets to be the spokesperson for that?

This is not “outlining” in the traditional sense, with “beats” and “pinch points” and “conflict” and, I don’t know, “technique.” It’s a matter of dumping out all the building blocks at once because I kinda want to build a castle, but I don’t have a castle kit, just a bucket of blocks.

The next step is to look for causality between all of those Things Happening, and arrange them so that the stakes get higher from beginning to end. I need more practice with that part.

If this is a Real Method, I don’t know what it is. Books I’ve liked so far, but haven’t had the discipline to follow to the letter, include:

Take Off Your Pants! Outline Your Books for Better, Faster Writing by Libbie Hawker

Rock Your Plot: A Simple System for Plotting Your Novel by Cathy Yardley

And now we’re in “Spider Dance”; writing long blog posts is itself a from of procrastination. Off we go.

This is going to sound bad, but

Aaaahhhhh, so excited.

  1. New-old-new title for THR2, The Healers’ Home. That’s the theme; that’s the title; I cannot be more crafty than that.
  2. New almost-final cover for it, too, now in the sidebar. Cover art by RLSather; typography by my sister, who is so dang talented, seriously why did we not do this earlier.
  3. Relatedly – we have a new cover for THR to harmonize better with the second book, and I am positively gleeful about that one. I am restraining myself from switching out the covers as a bribe to myself to finish the second book. When that’s done, then I can launch both at the same time.
  4. Two beta readers “lined up” for THR2, by which I mean they have said something more or less like “send it when it’s ready.” I am not going to be a jerk about that, but hey, you open that door and I’m going to send it.
  5. Short story / novella between 1 & 2 is going well, and should be ready by the time THR2 is ready. Of course, that’ll need a cover and title too, so cue proverbial screaming and crying.

NaNoWriMo Every Day

The NaNo train is pulling up to the internet, which I always find exciting, even if I’m not participating in a particular year. People are trying new things! Taking the plunge! I miss the forums and talking about writing. It was like summer camp for word nerds.

These days, my primary goal is to write at least 500 words a day, every day. That’s 1/3 NaNo speed, sustained year-round. More is always nice, but the goal is at least 500 words every day. Doing that, I was able to finish the first (incomplete) draft of THR2 within 45 days, and the fill-in chapters/sections continue steadily now.

You can break this down a few different ways. “Every day?” Each and every day, no exceptions. Some days it sucks. Most of the time it’s not that bad. I can hand-write 500 words in a half-hour to 45 minutes if I know where I’m going with the scene. I’ve only had maybe two days when it was seriously pulling-teeth awful, out of 80 days so far. Those are pretty good results.

“500 words?” Yeah, that’s not a lot in a world where 5000 words an hour (and dictation software) are required to keep up with the Joneses. But a stupidly low bar makes it possible to hit every dang day, even if I’m sick or depressed or busy or traveling or, or, or, or, and without quitting my job, outside socialization, other creative pursuits, or anything else that’s important to me. Lots of people love the idea that you need to suffer and die for your work, but meh to that. You don’t need to. If you want to, knock yourself out, but it’s fully optional.

NaNo is fun, and I would never dissuade anyone from doing it, but… you can do this every day, in your real life, without rearranging your entire being around it. You can be a multi-talented accountant-barista-student who also writes books. Seriously, you can. If I can, you can. It’s doable.

Otherwise: working on a new cover for THR to match THR2; asymptotically approaching the decision to rename THR2 The Healers’ Home; resisting because that sounds like a retirement village. (It’s always something.) Also working on an interlude short story between 1 and 2, to tie up a particular plot thread.

*runs around screaming*

Act II is complete, and because I like the low point of the book to happen because of the characters’ choices as much as possible, it means we’re also at the point where you want to grab the book / reader and growl “what the hell do you think you’re doing, you giant idiot” at most, if not all, of the characters. It’s the Don’t Go Into the Basement, the How Do You Expect to Fix This, the Oh Great, Now You’ve Done It point.

Mwahahahahahaha. Good times.

Act III will be an emotional wringer (as always), but probably shorter than I and II. I am so excited, you have no idea.


Another baby-step marathon

As I think I’ve mentioned before, I’m challenging myself this summer to write every single day. I’ve set a quota of 500 words for myself for at least 100 days, which is not much — per day, it’s about a quarter of a page in print or two composition-book pages longhand, which is how I typically write. (Yeah, I know. It’s a necessary logistical evil due to an atypical situation, not a precious artistic quirk or anything.*)

I wrote just under 40,000 words in August, averaging about 1,200-1,300 words a day. This ended up being the last third of the first act and the first half of the second act. The rest of the second act is outlined now, and the third act is sketched out. My goal is to keep writing at least 500 words a day, and to outdo my monthly average at the end of September.  I’m not setting any deadlines for myself about when THR2 will be done — I will just keep barreling forward and see how long it takes.

* I work full time as an office drone. Yeah, that breaks the magical image of all authors as haunted poets in attics. Sorrynotsorry. You never know whether the person next to you on the bus has a complex inner life and writes rambling novels about emotional healers. You don’t know until you ask. I think that’s pretty magical.

THR was largely written on weekend nights, and THR2 is being written in notebooks before I start work and over lunch breaks, then typed up during evenings and weekends. I feel like dunking my hands in an ice-water bath half the time, but it’s getting done.

You don’t need all the time in the world to do what you want to do. You just need to keep going.

Editing. See: Pillage, burn and.

The Healertown Passage, a.k.a. The Healers’ Road 2, has passed the 50,000 word mark! Woohoo! I’m in the middle of what will be the last chapter of Act 1. That sounds as though it suggests a 150,000-word book. However, that 50K chunk includes:

2,091 words of intro that got me warmed up, but don’t really advance much plot; I’ve been planning to cut them ever since the story got moving

3,778 words of late-in-the story stuff that was written ahead and will be heavily rewritten when I catch up with myself

11,252 words of middle-of-the-story set piece that I thought would anchor the end of Act 1, but the tone of Act 1 shifted and the pace speeded up a tiny bit (OMG, who are you and what have you done with the original) , so it ended much earlier than planned. So I have this 11,252-word island of scene that no longer fits the tone of the story.

I smell a sequel starter. It’s like a sourdough starter, but with expat dinner parties and adorableness. Next up: Write an outline that will incorporate/justify this set of scenes in Book 3.

Total: 17,121 out of the 50,942, or a full third of what has been written so far. If we’re talking words that are likely to survive to Draft 2, the book has hit 33,821, suggesting a total length of about 100K.

This is why editing is very, very important and also magic.

A wild procrastination beast attacks!

On a whim I started a Chore Wars guild for writing-related goings-on – rather than “take out the trash,” our quests are along the lines of “write 2000 words in a sitting.” This sort of thing is not for power-writers, obviously – if you don’t need a silly spur of motivation, then you won’t get much of a kick out of it. But if you also face the eternal question “hmm, do I write for an hour tonight, or do I watch another episode of Voyager on Netflix before giving up and going to bed,”* you are in my world. Welcome.

But it’s fun, and I will freely admit that I am getting trounced about 2:1 in both gold and XP.  For finishing (cough yet another cough) draft of the Other WIP I earned a “treat yourself” treasure, so I bought some music. Happy sigh. WIP continues. I face rewriting it from scratch a third time. But it has a ghost of a chance of being read by more than two people, so I can’t help but give it a try. A little bit at a time.

That’s how we get things done in our world. By inches. And eventually.

* Though we finished Voyager yesterday. Just one season of TOS to go and, well, all of TNG. Still a Niner, and you cannot stop me.