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Back on June 15th my writers group set goals of what we’d like to accomplish by the end of the year. Now that we’re halfway there I  thought it would be a good time to remind myself what those goals were and check in on my progress.

June 15th Goals for Year End

1. Finish Nano 2010 first draft

Done!  I finished the first draft on June 30th and it felt great! This kind of concrete progress is really good for the old self-esteem.

2. Finish first edit of Nano 2010 first draft in time for Nano 2011

Perhaps I ought to have checked those goals back in early July. Instead of taking a short time away from the big project and returning to edit as planned I’ve started on a whole new project. I don’t have any regrets on this decision; I’ve learned too much from my chosen course of action. What this calls for is a revised set of goals for year-end.

Instead of finishing a first edit of a draft I will work to finish the first draft of the July Novel in time for Nano 2011. That’s about six weeks to write what I estimate will be about 60 to 70K.

This leaves a question hanging. When Nanowrimo begins this year I will possess two first drafts waiting for revision. Will I want to put them both aside to pump out yet another one? I have three novel length story ideas waiting to be written but at some point I need to take the next step.

I have enough to do now that a decision can wait. Come October 31st I trust I’ll know which path is right.

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I have always been a pantser. When I get an idea it generally has an opening scene and one or more great characters. The story flows naturally from there. At most I would jot down the major points and a few scenes ahead but I figured the story might shift drastically so I thought that loose was better. It worked for me and the drafts that resulted seemed pretty solid.

Back in June I finished a first draft that I considered worthy of editing. It was wonderful, it was awesome and it was also an unholy mess that would need pain and blood and tears to turn into a “real book”. In other words it was a first draft and much as I loved it I needed a break. I backed it up in triplicate, closed the file and put it from my mind.

What to do in the meantime? All through writing that other draft I’d had a few stories try to tempt me away. I had been good, giving them no more than a few pages each just to make sure I recorded the idea completely. Now I was free to do more.

I decided to experiment with an outline. I figured, this isn’t my REAL book so I’m free to use it to learn new things. The outline took ages longer than the time I allotted it. Then just as I was ready to begin writing I realized I had pages of character outlining to do as well. It took as long to get to the writing as I had allotted for the entire project!

Once I began writing the going was slower than I anticipated. Slower than my last project in fact. And yet it was steady progress. Most importantly I was producing a cleaner draft than I ever thought possible. There might even be passages that could make into a final draft with little or no revision. Whoa.

What I have learned from this is the value of an outline in ensuring that my first draft is a clean and concise vision of what my eventual novel should look like and I guarantee that the amount of editing that will be necessary on this book is far less than that REAL novel I wrote (and still plan to return to). I have a new tool that saves me time and is making me a better writer. Shiny! I won’t be going back. I’m just too lazy not to put in that extra work in the beginning.

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In the wake of finishing my WIP first draft I was high on the rush of accomplishment. It felt great (to be honest it still does) and that first burst led me to set some lofty goals.

The July novel. The plan was to write roughly twice what is required by Nanowrimo but in half the time. Just two weeks. I know I am capable of 10k a day when I work hard so two weeks would give me an extra four days, weekends off if you will. I knew this was a nearly impossible goal but there was a sliver of possibility and I was high on success.

In those two weeks I wrote less than 1000 words of draft. But that was okay because I ended up using the time to write a detailed 16 page scene-by-scene outline, something I’ve never done before. I extended my deadline to the end of July and kept going.

2000 words later I was stalled again. I had my main character set up but it was time to introduce the supporting cast and suddenly I needed to know who they were. For the first time I needed to write scenes where multiple important characters interact. This meant being able to differentiate their voices and since not all of them would make it out alive and it behooved me to make them matter before I killed them. I needed to know more so once again I closed up scrivener, picked up pen and paper and got busy. I wrote 10 character sketches of varying complexity.

By this time it was the end of July. I looked at what I had and then checked a calendar and set myself yet another  goal. I would finish by August 15. Another “write a book in two weeks” deadline but this time armed with an outline and character sketches. How could I fail!

Today is the morning of the 11th and I admit it. It is just not going to happen. This book is different in tone and content from my earlier works and writing it has been a painful struggle for each word and sentence. With every step and detour I have tackled new techniques and learned new skills. I have struggled to meet my impossible goals and have failed.

Except I haven’t failed. The entire slow, winding, painful process has exhileratd and excited. The draft I am writing is, so far, the best first draft I have ever produced. It is the most cohesive, it has the least amount of diversions or talking head placeholders and it already resembles a real story. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still just a first draft but I can see already where I have improved between writing the last book and writing this one.

I am ready to push back the impossible goal to the end of August. At that point it won’t be an impossible goal anymore just a difficult one. If the draft doesn’t get finished by then I might even put it away unless I am very close to the end. This July Novel was never supposed to be more than something to do while the real WIP first draft simmered at the back of my brain. I have already gotten more out of the process than I thought possible.

Whatever happens at the end of August I know something else I’ve learned. Setting impossible goals makes me reach harder than setting easy ones. Impossible goals inspire me and that assures me that I am a writer. After all to write is to strive for the impossible goals. It’s a tough industry. Bring it on.

___________

Next post: That book review I promised.

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It’s currently 29 degrees celsius (about 84.2 F) in my apartment and worse in the computer room. Those puppies do crank out the heat! I’ve told myself I won’t turn on the air conditioning until it hits 30 to conserve hydro.  Since the heat has both myself and the cat doing nothing except lounging uncomfortably I thought I might use my indolence to bust out a blog post. I have several more planned for the near future once I can stand to be in the office again. (AC is confined to the bedroom unfortunately)

It’s been pretty solid since my last post. I finished my Nano Novel first draft (WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!) at the end of June and took a week off… mostly. I then started what I’m calling the July Novel. The plan is to write a full novel while I let the Nano Novel simmer in the back brain. Ideally I will finish a first draft by the end of July. Realistically… I won’t beat myself up if it takes me through August, especially now that I’m bogged down in character sketches.

The July Novel is a YA adventure fantasy with steampunk and sci-fi elements. It’s also something of a murder mystery. Honestly the more I delve into the plot the more I realize that my “relaxing break novel” is going to be just as complex and difficult as everything else I write. It’s not helping that I have ten characters to develop not all of whom will make it to the last page. I thought this would make it easier because they’re expendable. What I have learned is that expendable characters can be the most demanding. They only get a short time and they want that time to matter to the reader. For the death to be moving the reader has to care and that means I need to know as much  about the characters I kill as the ones who survive.

Characters are the backbone of this book. Aside from the initial set up there is little in the way of outside forces moving events; so only through characters making decisions and taking action is the story, well, a story. Otherwise it would be ten people on an airship having a nice leisurely flight. Boring!

So that’s what I’m up to.

Coming soon:

  • A book review of Remedy by Heidi C. Vlach.
  • A few thoughts on plot and other writing related ruminations.
  • More personal stories!

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I’ve set very lofty goals in writers group the last two weeks and so far it has been excellent. Ok, so I didn’t actually meet the first goal and I may not meet this week’s goal but what I have done is write consistently and long. It’s paying off too. The end of my novel is in sight soon I will have a shiny first draft and it will be glorious.

I’ve had this grace period between school and summer job where I’ve been able to just write. My plan is to use what’s left of this little window to finish up the first draft and then put it aside for a little while, though not too long. I’ll spend a week or so fleshing out the next two installments and then go back and start The Great Rewrite.

And it will be great, also long and probably arduous. The draft I have now is not so much a first draft as a long and exceptionally detailed outline in severe need of revision. I will likely rewrite the first 20 – 30K altogether. That’s okay, they were done in two weeks worth of Nanowrimo frenzy and they laid the foundation for what came after.

What is most exciting during this last stretch of writing is that at no time during the writing of this novel have I gotten tired of either the story or the characters. They evolved in wonderful ways that I didn’t always predict.  It’s been so much fun to play in this world and enjoy what it shapes into. Soon I will finish my first draft and then my job will be turning into a real story, one that is good enough to show everyone else the awesome world I’ve played in all along.

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April has been an interesting month. I began it with the best intentions of completing Scriptfrenzy but in the end I didn’t, or won’t by tomorrow night anyway. On three occasions I sat down to begin writing one of my short film scripts and three times I ended up writing a completely unrelated short story. After that I got 4 pages of script completed then began working on my novel again.

Don’t misunderstand me, the scripts will get written. Now is just not the time. My head is in my novel and I can’t really complain about that. I like my novel. I like where it is going and I like how I’m getting there. It feels good to be living full-time with the characters in my head again. So I gladly relinquish a win in my first attempt at Scriptfrenzy and continue on with my labour of love. I know I’ll come back to the scripts but I’ve got a few things to finish up first.

Not to say I don’t have other distractions nipping at my heels. A novel idea and an idea I think would be suited to novella length have been brewing. The novel will have to wait but I think developing the novella is worth a little time. It’s a story based around political intrigue and I think even if the novella never goes anywhere the exercise of trying to write it will be valuable for my current WIP which is loaded with intrigue.

The writing is going well. I’m setting a minimum goal of 5,000 words per week but until I manage to find a job I think I could do significantly better than that. If I am diligent I am confident I can do 25,000 per week, maybe more. At that rate I will finish the novel by the end of May. What a delicious thought.

Time to get started.

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I’ve been working on a full update of all of my creative goals but it’s actually a bit daunting to sort it all out. I have so many interests that at times I get bogged down and nothing gets done on any of them. So I’m going to use the goals update to really look at where I want to put my limited personal resources.

In the meantime here’s a shorter update of my most recent accomplishments:

  1. I’ve officially signed up for Scriptfrenzy on the website. I’m looking forward to spending a month just working on dialogue and by extension human interaction.
  2. I wrote and have half edited a flash fiction. The working title is Ape Dreams until I think of something clever. I have a strong belief that flash fictions must have clever titles.
  3. I wrote 5000 words on my Novel!! Woo! The dry spell is over! After two months of opening my novel and looking at it, pecking out a few words and trying to catch that thread I had lost, I’ve finally found my way back into it. Granted I started with a scene that was pretty easy and from the point of view of my favorite character to write at the moment but I’ve got the momentum now to keep going on those harder parts and trickier characters. Such a relief.
  4. I’ve written several synopses for short film scripts I want to write for Scriptfrenzy. Including a longer one that has really caught my attention.

After all the work I’ve put into the Monster-Post-of-My-Many-Goals it’s really good to be able to look at this list and see the things I’ve accomplished rather than all the things I’m not getting done.

The pessimist says the glass is half empty. The optimist says the glass is half full. The scientist says the glass is full, half with water and half with air. I don’t know who coined that last part but I like it. My glass is half full of the things I’ve accomplished and half-full of the things I’m going to do. It’s going to be great!

 

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