• Writing

    Writing Report, May 2014

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    Writing Report, May 2014

    May was a good month overall, even though I missed more targets than I hit. Still not much editing, though I’ve done some tiny adjustments to some stories before sending them out. Yes, I’m submitting again. It’s been a while since I made a serious run at getting my fiction in front of other people’s eyes for publishing, but I’m trying to not let that bother me.

    It’s worth noting that we went to two conventions in May: Ottawa Comic Con and Anime North (more on the first of those here, and more on the second in a couple of days). Six potential writing days gone in two puffs of awesome. Well, maybe two days. I haven’t been doing a lot of writing on weekends lately.

    A very quick overview of May, 2014:

     

    Major WIP

    The Godhead

    Book 1 – 26,358 more words to bring it to a total of 126,427 and make it the longest thing I’ve ever written. Also the most “over budget” since my original outline estimated 94,500. Added the “extra” scenes where they were needed once I’d finished the primary story to the end.

    Decided to move into Book 2 after all, and put in the first 10,607 words across almost four chapters. Not deviating much from the outline yet, but it’s early.

    And that makes 36,965 words on the novel front this month. Which is good, for reasons that will become apparent.

     

    Next WIP

    I actually did very little work on the Peacebringers outlines, but I’m still fleshing out the world a bit in my head.

     

    Other Fiction

    Totally dropped the short fiction drafting ball. Finished a story for The Undead: on May 1st and haven’t started another one yet. That’s okay. Other focuses.

     

    Other Writing

    Not so good on the blog, but we’ll all live, I suppose. Did do a little work on some other things totalling a mere 6,663 words, including most of this post.

     

    Total for the Month

    45,685 words. Lighter than most of the last few months, but still a decent total looking at the last couple of years. Considering life and the real world, this is perfectly fine.

    As a side note, my monthly average for the past 12 months is 39,239 words, but if I only look at October 2013 on (starting when I kicked things into high gear), that number comes up to 53,500. Which still makes May light, but makes me happy.

    Looking ahead, the goals for June:

    1. Book 2 of The Godhead deserves another 30,000 words this month.
    2. Finish plotting Becoming Alien. Really. Okay, we’ll see.
    3. Let’s get some short fiction in and set the bar at a high 10,000 words for The Undead.
    4. Revision notes for Universal Destiny. Hmm. Still on the list.
    5. Another shot at 10 blog posts for the month. This counts as one, but I still have plenty of topics lined up, most of which are left over from last month.

    Be well, everyone.

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  • Writing

    The TWD

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    So I may be a writer, but I’m also very fond of numbers. Obsessed, some people of my close acquaintance might say. The proper ordering of my universe requires numerical accuracy in addition to well understood grammar.

    As applied to my writing, this numerical obsession manifests several ways. Aside from the writing reports I’ve started doing monthly again, I actually have writing logs going back to when I first started to get serious about getting better at writing. (The first day in the first log is 15 August 2007, where I spent a few minutes each on four different stories, plus a short blog entry. I can’t find the blog entry, and after many revisions, one of those stories became readable. The others… are best left where they are.)

    But I had this thought last week, now that I’m trying to ramp up production levels, that there might be interesting summary statistics I could use. One of these, I call the TWD, the Theoretical Writing Day count.

    The idea is that most of the time right now I have two different projects I’m working on a first draft of, one large and one small. Every day I write on each contributes to the average daily word count in that category. So there’s an average for the large (usually novel) and small (usually short story). The two of these added together are the TWD.

    How is this relevant? Well, life, being what it is, intervenes in my writing schedule at times. I don’t write on both projects every single day, or sometimes I don’t get as many words in as the daily plan calls for. This is expected, and I’ve built safety margins into things to account for that. But what if I didn’t miss days? What if I always at least hit the planned minimums?

    For November, I missed three “major project” days and had 5 more where I didn’t hit the standard 1k for the day (1250 on weekends). So across 27 days, I wrote 31,744 words for a TWD of 1176. A similar calculation for short projects (although with more missed days as the secondary project is more likely to suffer due to life commitments), planned for 250 words per day (500 on weekends), I get a TWD of 405.

    Taking these two together, I get 1176 + 405 = 1581 for my average TWD.

    Why do I care? Well, if all 30 days in November had equaled the TWD, I would have written 47,430 words of new fiction. I actually wrote 38,627, or 81.4% of the theoretical perfect month based on what I actually wrote.

    If I look at plan numbers specifically, based on the distribution of weekends in November, the TWD comes out to 1075 + 325 = 1400, giving a total plan of 42,000. So I actually wrote 92.0% of that.

    Neat, huh?

    Well, if you like numbers.

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  • WIP,  Writing

    November Numbers

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    Writing Report, November 2013

    Keeping myself honest, and not because I expect many people will read this, it’s time for the first of the month writing update to cover the previous month. In this case, November 2013.

    I won’t go into the “productivity” experiment parameters again other than as they match up with the goals I reached or didn’t for November. Again, there are numbers involved, so if that bores you, skip ahead to the end.

    First, a quick reminder of the parameters of the writing experiment:

    • Limited, but daily when possible, social networking, mostly over breakfast. (I’m semi-failing at this. FB has done well enough from me, but only on a personal level, and I’ve probably only been on Twitter about half the days this month. More on that another day.)
    • Podcast listening cut in half, so that I can use at least one leg of my commute for dictation. (This is actually how I’m doing a lot of the first draft on my current WIP. It’s messy but fairly fast. The second draft will need more cleaning than usual.)
    • More of everything on my days off and especially when I’m on night-shift rotations. (And I’m almost ¾ of the way through a 4-week round of nights right now.)

    First, the hard targets, along with what I actually achieved.

    Project

    Target

    Actual

    Manifest Destiny (SF novel)

    27,000

    27,938

    words
    Short Fiction

    10,000

    10,689

    words
    Godhead, Book 2 plotting

    45/45

    49/45

    scenes
    Ancient Runes, Final Draft

    30,000

    60,363

    words

     

    Breaking things out a bit more,

    1. Manifest Destiny is complete at 61,034 words and I wrote the last 3,223 in a sprint on the 26th after finishing the final draft of Ancient Runes the day before, and not doing anything creative for two days before that because I was sick.
    2. I met the short fiction goal only because I finished Manifest Destiny so early. Two trips out of town, illness, and several unexpected events left me putting in only a little more than half the time I should have on the short fiction front.
    3. The Godhead plotting has gone really well, and I’m starting December with 5 scenes plotted and about ¾ of the rest with ideas in mind.
    4. The last ¼ of the Ancient Runes final draft happened in one afternoon lying in bed, not so much reading aloud as whispering since I had no real voice at the time.
    5. And I seem to have difficulty getting much writing done when I’m working day shift with my days off actually falling on weekends. Family time and stuff around the house. So be it. I’ll live with a lower word count when that happens.

    Overall, I’m very pleased.

    Overall word production:

    Drafting

    38,627

    Editing

    322

    Plotting

    6,320

    Blog Posts

    4,386

    Non-fiction

    8,443

     

    Which comes to a grand total of 58,358 words for the month. A few thousand lighter than October, but still not too shabby. I debate all the time whether it’s fair to count editing or if there should be some kind of formula that works out actual change rather than net change. I’ve had editing sessions where I work three 4 or 5,000 words and have a net change in single digits even though I’ve made heavy modifications. An argument for another day.

    Notes:

    1. Even boosting the goals, I did pretty well and hit them all.
    2. I finished the first draft of a short novel in less than two months. This lends me hope that I can manage a 90k word novel in three months, and I’ll be putting that to the test beginning New Years’ Day. It can be done.
    3. I have this idea about the TWD (Theoretical Writing Day) Count, but I’ll cover that in another post because this one is already stretching out.

    Again, because I derive great joy from planning things, I’ve re-forecasted the test period, counting October and November as complete. Actually, there wasn’t a lot of joy because I changed exactly one thing. Since I’m not going to be editing Ancient Runes in December (because it’s “done”), I’m going to polish some short fiction instead.

    So the revised forecast to the middle of 2014 looks like this:

    Month

    Plotting/Other Drafting Editing

    Oct-13

    Godhead Trilogy, plotting Manifest Destiny Graceland

    Nov-13

    Godhead Trilogy, plotting Manifest Destiny Ancient Runes

    Dec-13

    Godhead Trilogy, plotting Novelette x 3 Short Fiction Cleanup

    Jan-14

    Short Fiction Cleanup Godhead 1 Manifest Destiny

    Feb-14

    Short Fiction Cleanup Godhead 1 Manifest Destiny

    Mar-14

    Short Fiction Cleanup Godhead 1 Manifest Destiny

    Apr-14

    Becoming Alien, plotting Godhead 2 Novelettes

    May-14

    Becoming Human, plotting Godhead 2 Novelettes

    Jun-14

    Bringing Peace, plotting Godhead 2 Novelettes

     

    I’ve talked about the novelettes project in a previous post (here), but I’m already worried about staying inside the word count estimates. The first one is going strong, and I feel like, 4,300 words in, it’s probably going to hover at about a 12k first draft. But I’ve started the second one, too, and 1,800 words in I’m only half way through the second of fourteen planned scenes. I’m pretty sure this one is going to break the theoretical maximum of 15,000.

    I have made some revisions to the 5-Year Plan, but mainly in the short fiction category, devoting a lot of my planned new short fiction time to a series of themed projects, the first one being an exploration of the Undead beyond (but including) zombies and vampires. And the second a collection of speculative stories focused around emotions. Probably. I keep flip flopping on which of those I’m going to dive into first. Right now, the Undead are winning, but not by much. I’ll commit to one at the end of December to start in January.

    Two months don’t make a trend, either, but they connect into a straight line with a good benchmark. Let’s see how December goes.

    Be well, everyone.

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  • WIP,  Writing

    The First Serious Month

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    Writing Report, October 2013

    So it’s been a while since I’ve done the whole “writing report” thing. Because I’m conducting a kind of massive writing experiment right now, I’m going to revive the practice for the experimental period, the idea being a little objective analysis. If numbers aren’t your thing, much less the explanations behind them, I suggest you skip this post. It’s also likely to be long.

    First, a quick reminder of the parameters of the writing experiment:

    • Limited, but daily when possible, social networking, mostly over breakfast. (I’m semi-failing at this. FB has done well enough from me, but only on a personal level, and I’ve probably only been on Twitter about half the days this month. More on that another day.)
    • Podcast listening cut in half, so that I can use at least one leg of my commute for dictation. (This is actually how I’m doing a lot of the first draft on my current WIP. It’s messy but fairly fast. The second draft will need more cleaning than usual.)
    • More of everything on my days off and especially when I’m on night-shift rotations. (And I’m almost ¾ of the way through a 4-week round of nights right now.)
    • No time may be stolen from my family or other obligations. Writing places third after family and career. (There’s an old post on Chocolate Scotch that, among other things, covers my thoughts on stealing time from your family to further your creative pursuits. Summary: it doesn’t make you a good time manager, it makes you a jerk.)

    There were hard numerical targets for my writing October, which I’ll now share (especially since I met all of them), along with what I actually achieved.

    Project

    Target

    Actual

    Manifest Destiny (SF novel)

    26,500

    33,096

    words
    Short Fiction

    10,000

    10,641

    words
    Godhead, Book 1 plotting

    20/40

    46/46

    scenes
    Graceland read through

    82,237

    82,237

    words

     

    I also finished the Graceland read through with time enough to spare that I’m starting November a little more than 25% into the final (read it aloud) draft of Ancient Runes, started the plotting of the second Godhead book, and I’ve put about 5761 words into blogging and another 6749 into non-fiction projects, mostly of a genealogical (family history) nature.

    All told, if I add in the words in the Godhead plotting document and count changes due to editing in absolute words, I pounded out 65,220 words this month, and I did it without neglecting my family, though I’m sure there were a few neglected tasks on the To Do list.

    I don’t promise those were all good words, or well structured or well plotted words on the fiction side, but that’s what editing is for. It’s entirely acceptable for first drafts to suck. Later drafts should improve things, at least that’s the idea.

    The one target I didn’t put into things initially is short story submissions. I haven’t done a lot of story submissions in the past couple of years, but I am still writing short fiction. I need to get at that backlog and either put together some collections (which I originally planned for this year) or get some stories out in front of editors’ eyes. Both would be better. I managed 3 submissions this month, and feel like that’s not bad, considering the rest of my life, but I’ll attempt 5 each for November and December. That’s only a bit more than 1 per week. Should be easy, right?

    Now, because I’m a planner, and derive great joy from figuring things out, I get to re-forecast. Here’s what I know:

    1. I dominated my goals for October.
    2. A month worth of data shows me that one direction on my commute averages just over 1000 words (1068), so I’ll use 1k per day as a working model for novel word count on commuting days.
    3. This means that I could theoretically be finished Manifest Destiny (a short novel projected at 60k) by the end of November and have written a novel in two months.
    4. Life is full of curve balls, so I will not otherwise alter my targets at this time. (This may have a motivational side effect if I can maintain the momentum.)
    5. Having managed the rough plot for the first book of the Godhead Trilogy in one month, and have a solid idea of where the story is going for the next two volumes, at least at a very high level, I have hopes that I can do the same for books two and three.
    6. I think I want to write all three books of Godhead and then edit them as a single coherent narrative.
    7. There are many stories I want to tell.

    The original forecast (extended for half of 2014) looked like this:

    Month

    Plotting/Other Drafting Editing

    Oct-13

    Godhead Trilogy Manifest Destiny Ancient Runes

    Nov-13

    Godhead Trilogy Manifest Destiny Ancient Runes

    Dec-13

    Godhead Trilogy Manifest Destiny Graceland

    Jan-14

    Godhead Trilogy Godhead 1 Manifest Destiny

    Feb-14

    Godhead Trilogy Godhead 1 Manifest Destiny

    Mar-14

    Godhead Trilogy Godhead 1 Manifest Destiny

    Apr-14

    Short Fiction Cleanup Godhead 2 Godhead 1

    May-14

    Short Fiction Cleanup Godhead 2 Godhead 1

    Jun-14

    Short Fiction Cleanup Godhead 2 Godhead 1

     

    Revised for 6 of the 7 points above, with October already clearly accomplished, produces this:

    Month

    Plotting/Other Drafting Editing

    Oct-13

    Godhead Trilogy, plotting Manifest Destiny Graceland

    Nov-13

    Godhead Trilogy, plotting Manifest Destiny Ancient Runes

    Dec-13

    Godhead Trilogy, plotting Novelette x 3 Ancient Runes

    Jan-14

    Short Fiction Cleanup Godhead 1 Manifest Destiny

    Feb-14

    Short Fiction Cleanup Godhead 1 Manifest Destiny

    Mar-14

    Short Fiction Cleanup Godhead 1 Manifest Destiny

    Apr-14

    Becoming Alien, plotting Godhead 2 Novelettes

    May-14

    Becoming Human, plotting Godhead 2 Novelettes

    Jun-14

    Bringing Peace, plotting Godhead 2 Novelettes

     

    Becoming Alien, Becoming Human, and Bringing Peace are the three books making up my next major project, a trilogy exploring first contact, interspecies relations, and what it means to be human. With a solid idea of the basic story, I’m forecasting being able to plot each of those in one month as well.

    The novelettes are three, 10,000-ish word stories (all loosely gathered under the genre of Fantasy) I already have rough plotted. Added to “Thorvald’s Wyrd”, they may make a collection together.

    January through March, you’ll see the Short Fiction Cleanup. This will be an effort to get a lot more stories looking for homes and a lot more first drafts to the final draft stage so they can look for homes. I’m debating setting specific goals here rather than just trying to get something extra done every day.

    Now, because I can’t stop myself, I actually have a five-year plan (to the end of 2018) forecasted out at the same level of detail, plus a couple of extra columns for publishing and podcasting. At the end of that period, keeping this pace, there are still three individual novels, a YA trilogy, and a 6-book Fantasy series I won’t have written yet. I’m sure more ideas will occur to me in between.

    Yes, I have reached a new level of insanity, but the plan is very fluid, even just looking at the 2014 plan, and I’ll adjust my forecast as required by major events and progress or lack of it.

    One month doesn’t make a long term trend, but I’m hopeful for at least the next couple of months to work well. For now, I should get back to work.

    Be well, everyone.

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  • Writing

    Editing is Weird

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    I like editing. There, I said it.

    Many writers will raise an eyebrow or two at that. Some will express actual shock. Some people who profess to love writing or being writers also are free with the knowledge that they hate editing. But I like it. Sometimes I love it.

    Working on my own fiction, I enjoy editing at least as much as drafting. Sometimes more. Every writer has their own process, unique to that person. Mine has a fair number of quirks to it, but I doubt that’s unusual. I also have an obsession with numbers that, in my experience, most people don’t share. More on that in a minute.

    Typically, I work in four drafts. I may have talked about it before, but here’s a quick recap:

    First Draft: the brain dump, getting the story out of my head and into the keyboard.

    Then I let the story rest for a while so I can come back to it with fresh eyes and do a read through, making notes as I go on all the things, big or small, that don’t work or need explanation.

    Second draft: the fix what’s broken draft. Take the notes, fix everything in them and anything else I find along the way.

    Third draft: the make it pretty draft. The third draft is all about making the text readable, making it flow, making it sound good.

    Final draft: the read it aloud and make sure I didn’t miss anything draft. Because I always have.

    If it sounds like a long process, it can be, but thinking about the usual messiness of my first drafts, I’m always confused when I hear about someone finishing a story and sending it out the next day. By the end of the third draft, I’m almost always happy with the story

    Oh right. Numbers.

    First drafts are easy to measure. Subtract the number of words you start with from the number you finish with and that’s how many you’ve written this session. I can kind of do the same thing for revision notes, counting it as plotting, but it doesn’t seem to work so well for subsequent drafts. So how do I satisfy my obsession with numbers for those?

    I could measure time, but that’s not so much an apples to apples comparison as it is apples to herring. I could just set amounts to edit for a given project or day, based on scene or chapter length. And I do this, but for targets, not productivity. It would be closer. Maybe apples to zucchini.

    After struggling with the idea for a little while, I decided using the difference in word count works just fine. But what about when you cut things out and it winds up shorter? Simple, I take the absolute difference in word count instead. Starting with 5100 words and winding up with 5000 words is still a 100-word difference. The key is to remind myself that editing is part of the writing process, but it’s not the same things as drafting. Measuring it doesn’t have to be identical.

    So I like the absolute difference measurement, even though it’s not ever going to produce a linear comparison. Depending on the editing that needs doing, and what draft I’m in, I could be adding or subtracting hundreds of words in a given session. And that’s okay. Either way, I still have a number to put to it.

    And very occasionally, I manage to briefly entertain myself by spending an hour somewhere in the middle of a third draft, modifying sentence after sentence, paragraph after paragraph, to come up with a net change of zero words.

    At any rate, as long as I’m enjoying the story, every part of its construction is fun for me. When the words are flying out of my fingers into the keyboard, when I answer all of the questions and issues my read through produced, when I bash the awkward sentences into smooth ones, and when I hear the sound the story makes in my own ears. It’s all part of the process, and it’s all part of the fun.

    Be well, everyone.

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