Tag Archives: novel.2007

Writing

I just finished another 1,000 words of Next Life. I was hoping to get a little more done tonight, but I started late again, and decided to stop working as close to 8:30 PM as I could because I have to get to bed. I’ve got a long day tomorrow.

It’s still moving pretty well. I’m into the last scene of the first chapter, and I left off at a spot that I am eager to pick up from on Friday. (I say Friday because I’ve got softball after work tomorrow an by the time I get home, will have to head straight for bed.)

I’m 9.9% of the way through the schedule, and 2.6% of the way done with the story. I’m happy that I managed to get 1,000 words done tonight. It felt good and just being able to get something down on paper, if nothing else, is good practice. I have a feeling that there will be a lot of cleaning up to do in the final draft, but I’m not worrying about that right now. I’m just getting in as much practice as I can.

It’s underway!

After a few weeks of on-again-off-again outlining, the novel version of my novella, “Graveyard Shift” is officially underway. I wrote the first half of Chapter One tonight, doing just about 1,400 words in an hour and a half and I feel really good about what I have written thus far. Of course, it is just the very beginning, but I did manage to write almost 3 times my baseline of 500 words a day. And they were good words, too! Sometime I write stuff to get it on paper but I don’t much like what I wrote afterward. Tonight, I felt moved by what I wrote.

My progress thus far: 9.5% of the way through my schedule and only 1.5% of the way toward my writing goal. Keep in mind that while my schedule has been ticking away, I haven’t really been writing until tonight. In fact, I only need to maintain tonight’s pace until May 25 and I’ll catch up to my schedule (and that excludes weekends, so that I can catch up even faster if I do manage to get some writing done over the weekend.

Really, though, the best thing about the writing session tonight is that it is finally underway and now that I’ve gotten something good on paper, I feel motivated to get back to my desk tomorrow evening and do some more writing. I would continue tonight, but I have to get to bed…

Outline is almost complete

Okay, so this evening I made outstanding progress on the outline for the expanded version of “Graveyard Shift”. There are three parts to the novel. Each part has 11 chapters and is roughly 30,000 words, which means on average, each chapter is 2,700 words long. (That’s not hard and fast, just something to aim toward.)

I have the first 60,000 words (22 chapters) outlined in detail, and I know how the story is going to end, how the problem is going to be solved, etc. So all I have left is completing the outline of part 3, but that can wait. In fact, I want to hold off on that a little to allow the story to grow on its own some.

So, beginning tomorrow evening, I think I’m actually going to start writing! (About time!) With the outline that I’ve got and the detailed notes about the characters (there’s a pretty big cast), I think I might be able to do a little more than the 500 words a day I was hoping for. But we’ll see how it goes.

An outline has taken shape

Earlier, I complained that I wasn’t writing much lately and that is true when it comes to my fiction. But it may be a little misleading, because I have been jotting down lots of notes on the plot and characters for the expanded version of “Graveyard Shift”. These notes, handwritten on paper in tiny prints, taking up both sides, have finally, this afternoon, started to cool and congeal into a rough outline shape.

What I have essentially done is outlined the entire plot of the story from each of the characters points of view, showing their interaction points. I’ve gotten through all but a few of the main characters. From this, I have been able to identify the three main “parts” of the expanded version of the story. Furthermore, I have been able to establish a rough time-line of events which will help a great deal because the story is told from different points of view and while it is in close-to-chronological order, it is not in strict chronological order, and having the time-line of major events helps.

I’m setting a goal of trying to complete my notes and outline by Wednesday evening, so that on Thursday evening, I can begin writing. (This will give me something to do in the evenings when I am in L.A. in just over a week, and perhaps I can come back from L.A. having completed a good deal of writing.)

More plot outlining

I spent another hour or so on the plot outlining of NextLife, outlining the various threads from the point of view of the six major characters. Things are really starting to fall into place. A couple more hours of this and I will be able to put together a timeline that fits all these threads in the proper sequence, which will then turn into a chapter and scene list for how the events need to be presented. “Graveyard Shift” was the most complex story I ever wrote in terms of plot and characters and the novel version of it is only growing more complex, although in a way in which I hope keeps the reader turning pages.

I also did a little rough outlining of “If By Reason of Strength” and made some good progress there. I’ve got 8 parts to the story outlined; I don’t know if that will help write it as I’m still not sure I’m ready, but it’s better than what I had before. (I probably shouldn’t force it if I’m not ready, but I can’t help it sometimes.)

And on the reading front, I’m close to 600 pages through In Joy Still Felt. I should be finishing that up in the next couple of days.

Plot threads and names

More plotting tonight on NextLife. I wrote a very rough outline of one entire plot thread that runs through the complete story, with two of the six major characters as the primary people in the thread. This is an important thread as it serves as the backbone for the rest of the story and provides a great deal of motivation for the actions that are taking place. From this thread, I should be able to parse out the remaining threads and see where they fit in, and where they intersect.

I also considered my character names. This particular story takes place more than 2,000 years in the future, and yet I used ordinary names in the novella and the more I thought about it, the more I felt I needed names that seemed less familiar. I renamed 4 of the 6 main characters given them both less familiar names and more meaningful ones. (Incidentally, I discovered a great name website while doing this called Behind the Name which bills itself as “the etymology and history of first names”. It is actually very well organized and I found it to be very helpful.)

I probably spend about 90 minutes on this stuff this evening. All the chores are done and I’m getting sleepy so I’m heading off to bed. I’m going to try and squeeze in more plot threads tomorrow.

More plot outlining

No writing tonight, but I spent the last hour or so filling in more details of the plot and why things are happening, as well as motivations behind the various characters and how those motivations influence the actions that characters will take throughout the story. I’ve got nearly a full handwritten page in microscopic pencil print of notes that begin to comprise the foundation of the story. A very loose structure is beginning to form; it looks as though there will be three parts to the novel, each part titled with a significant Latin proverb. I have also outlined some significant interactions between the characters and how the virtues of one character balance the flaws of another and vice versa. I feel pretty good about the direction the novel is going.

The crucial thing is to establish the hook. It is the first 40-60 pages of the novel that get sent to the publisher, along with an outline of the rest of the story. Those first 60 pages have to make the reader want to read the next 60 pages so it can’t start slowly. Even with all of the extra detail one can go into in a novel, it has to keep moving and keep the reader interested which to me seems particularly challenging as a writer, even though as a reader, I am often hooked throughout a book.

So as things stand, I’m 2.0% of the way through the schedule, and still 1.1% of the way through the writing. I’ll continue to get behind for a few more days until I’ve got a solid structure and know where things are going. Then I should start writing and pick up steam.

For now, off to watch Smallville

Working at writing

Writing isn’t always writing. Tonight, I spent the time I usually set aside to work on some outlining and character sketching for NextLife, my first ever attempt at a science fiction novel. I have a pretty good strategy that I use when writing short stories. (Most of the advice I have gotten for the writing of short stories comes from Isaac Asimov’s various books and writings on the subject.) For instance, I think up a problem and a solution before writing anything; I try to begin the story as late in the time line as possible. I try and think up interesting characters. Once I’ve got that, I set myself loose and have at it, usually (but not always) without too much trouble.

My own process for story-building

The novel is officially underway

You can’t possibly go through the experience I went through this weekend and not be inspired to write. I mentioned earlier that I did some outlining at the ball game earlier today on the expanded version of my novella, “Graveyard Shift”. I had enough to get started (finally) actually writing, and this evening, I wrote the first thousand words, which is about half of Chapter 1. I’ve seen these fancy little graphs that allow you to track your writing progress, but the graphs take all the fun of out working it out yourself, so I’m going to do it the old-fashioned way. Therefore, here are the assumptions for my own little progress checked:

  • Today is Day 1
  • I will write 500 words/day and write 5 out of 7 days in the week (or a total of 2,500 words/week)
  • I’m aiming for 90,000 words, which would put my target completion date for the first draft 36 weeks (252 days) from now, or on December 30, 2007.

Therefore, at the close of 1 day I am 1/252nd of the way through my schedule, or 0.4%. I am 1/90th of the way to my target, or 1.1%. In the future, I will list these as “schedule” and “writing” percentages. If the writing percentage is greater than the schedule percentage, it means I am ahead of schedule; if it is less, I am behind schedule. I’m aiming, of course, to stay on or ahead of schedule. 1,000 words in a single day in almost half of my quota for the week. So today was a good day!

It seems like a waste of time to track progress, except for the fact that I have never attempted to write something that is 90,000 words long and had a great deal of difficulty writing something that was 20,000 words long last year. The tracking, therefore, is more to set milestones for myself, though it may be of general interest to others. If you don’t find it interesting, I’ll keep it behind LJ cuts in the future and you only have to look at it if you want to.

Oh, incidentally, “Graveyard Shift” was a very good title for the novella, but it doesn’t work for the novel because the novel takes place over a longer period of time. Therefore, the working title of the novel is presently, NextLife and that is how I will refer to it in the future.

A “novel” project

I know what you’re thinking. I already have too many projects. I have the SCIENCE FICTION AGE reviews (which are on hiatus during the month of April). I have my Italian lessons (which I have been ignoring of late). I have my workouts (from which I am taking a break this week). And I am constantly complaining about how little time I have to do anything. So what’s this about yet another project?

I haven’t been writing much lately. I have 5 stories and none of them are moving along well, or in the direction I want them to move. But I feel the urge to write none the less, and I need something to work on that grabs me. This evening, driving home from the metro station, I realized what it was.

Back in February, I complained that I had nowhere else to send my novella, “Graveyard Shift” because I’d sent it to the major markets, and the remaining markets don’t take stories that are 20,000 words long. At that time, mabfan suggested that I expand the story into a novel. I replied that the thought struck me dumb with fear. I’ve never attempted to write a novel and I wouldn’t know how to go about it. But this evening, I thought about Michael’s suggestion and it dawned on my that this would be a good opportunity to learn, and to write as much as possible.

And of all my stories, “Graveyard Shift” happens to be the most perfectly suitable for a novel length story. The story in it’s present form is just over 20,000 words. I figure I need to add another 60,000 – 70,000 words to get it to an appropriate length. In total, I’m aiming for about 90,000 words. How can I possibly expand a 20,000 word story to 90,000 words. As it turns out, the setting of the story is perfect for this. I can go more in depth with the characters, explore the setting, and add additional complications that will make the story (in my opinion) even more interesting. I have no idea what I am doing when it comes to expanding the story, but I’ll work at it as best I can. If I can manage around 500 words a day (about 2 pages), it would take me 140 days or so to expand. I work better with deadlines. There are about 200 days left in the year so I’m aiming to have the novel version of the story finished by the end of the year. That gives me 60 days in which I can do no writing at all, so long as I make my targets on average.

I don’t expect the novel to sell. Don’t get me wrong, I will submit it to those science fiction book publishers that don’t require writers to have agents. But I simply can’t see a first effort on my part being of much interest. Instead, I see it as a learning experience, a writing exercise, and a way to force myself to write more than I have in the past. It’s something new, something that I am afraid of trying, but a fear to be conquered.

As always, I’ll post my progress along the way. The first step is deciding how to organize the novel. My initial thinking is that a slightly reorganized and expanded version of the novella will make up the first part, and I have in mind some ideas for the second and third parts. I have some plotting and outlining to do, but the characters that form the foundation are already there in the novella so I also have a good jumping off point. The title of the novel will likely change. The current title has a double meaning in part because the story takes place over one long night and day. The expanded version will probably take place over several days, or even a week, and thus some of the double meaning is lost.

That’s my “novel” project and I’m pretty excited about it. Thanks, mabfan for the suggestion and encouragement. If, by some miracle, I do write something that someone feels is worth publishing, you will have earned yourself an honorable mention in the acknowledgments. 🙂

Stay tuned…