Writing: Your Mileage May Vary

According to experienced writers of my acquaintance, writing a free-form draft of a short story takes an hour and a half, on average.

I wrote for five hours. I took a tea break and a false-alarm break. The latter found me nervously checking for a wild animal just outside the screen door. (No, thank God! I couldn’t see it, but there was a raccoon growling at something. Raccoons have a distinctive sound.)

Anyway, I guess the time estimate fell short because the advisors are experienced both with writing drafts and meeting deadlines (several are published). So as with any writing advice, your mileage may vary.

I typed 2,435 words. However, that number includes asides like “Look up climate of coast.”

I woke up this morning with the realization that a character mentioned in passing is more important than the supporting character who was so enjoyable to write. So revisions will ensue.

 

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DIY Writer’s Retreat 2017

This summer has been exceptionally bogged down in minutiae like tearing out an overgrown patch garden and preparing for a very different work environment at The Young Human Factory. I despaired of having a block of undisturbed time to be alone and writing. Plus, I decided to go rewrite the first draft of my novel – and made it worse.

However, I have found the time to do a three-day, self-directed Writer’s Retreat. It started this morning. Continue reading

An inside job

I have written very little since my last check-in. I had guests, visited family, and started an intensive paper-taming project. How intensive? I had to “rest” the shredder until special-ordered lubricant arrived!

The weather inspired me to tackle this dreaded task. I started sorting files and editing content during record-breaking heat.  On rainy days, I hole-punched, created dividers, and labeled 3-ring binders. As I finish this project, flood watches are in effect. (Thankfully, I see no sign of locusts.)

The objective was to create a time-saving system for handling important paperwork like medical records and legal documents. However, the bulk of the files contain newspaper clippings, acceptance letters, and oh-so-many unpublished pages!

I wanted to rebury them as soon as I unearthed them – as I’ve done many times before – because they inspire strong emotions. Continue reading

Word-count

Since last Thursday, I’ve written 7041 words. I should clarify that I include only coherent words in my word-count; that is, words that form a chapter or complete scene. That’s why I haven’t posted a total since the early part of the July.

My total includes scribbling I did last week and the week before. I filled plot gaps, such as why the protagonist would agree to assist a shady character (restitution!). I also added character interactions because I despise novels in which everyone adores the main character despite him being an ignorant savage, a know-it-all, and/or because he’s the Chosen One.**

I continue to build two subplots so that they’ll definitely drive forward the main plot. The little one is the reconciliation of young lovers. The big one involves double-dipping. The  main character Wall has been hired to do the same job by opposing characters, but he’s secretly working towards his own ends. How will this blow up and destroy his plans? I don’t know! But it will be fun learning how!

Of course, this is still a rough draft. I’ll have to split this into chapters, with proper transitions. It’s dialogue-heavy, so I’ll have to cut during the final-draft phase. (No, not the banter!) Also there should be more description in this post-technological crash world.

But later. Right now, I’m having fun.


**Lyra in The Golden Compass is a twofer. She’s an ignorant savage who’s the “Second Eve” around whom a trilogy eventually revolves. The trilogy, by the way, is where I get one of my everyday pseudo-oaths: Sloths on wheels!

Distractions from writing

Although this is my second annual DIY Writer’s Retreat, I wish I’d seen Kristen Pope’s advice, particularly this: “If you need to look something up for your draft, make a note and look it up later.” She refers to the Internet; I’ve found the same is true of physical sources. Continue reading

Outlining during revision

Even if you’ve outlined your first draft, getting sidetracked is kind of allowed, because you’re exploring your characters, plot, and story in a different way. And if you didn’t change your outline accordingly, [the revision is] the chance to do that.

Kelsie Engen wrote the preceding quote in her guest post at A Writer’s Path, 7 Reasons Why You Should Outline Your Novel During Revision.

Reading it was serendipitous. When I reported my word count to my writers’ group, I commented that the outlined ending doesn’t seem to fit what I’m writing.

I got encouragement to finish my draft regardless of the outline, but I felt as if I’m letting the wheel go and allowing my ship to drift off course. But thinking that I revise my outline afterward makes me feel better about going with the flow and see where it lands.

Quote of the day: Deadlines

Deadlines make us see deficiencies, not accomplishments. – Jean Balconi

I said this as encouragement to an acquaintance who beat herself up over an external deadline. She had an impressive list of all the things she’s done so far, but she couldn’t appreciate her own hard work. She reminded me of a game character running towards a goal while the timer is counting down in the corner and obstacles keep popping up in the path.

When I say something remotely profound, it usually applies to my situation. This case is no different.

My own deadline is looming: August 15. That’s the date for my rough draft to be complete. I’m not at the freak-out point yet, but I’m giving short shift to the reading and reflection parts of my DIY Writer’s Summer Camp. I returned Ender’s Game to the library unread because I’d rather write.

During the last two weeks, I wrote thousands of words in between day-trips, guests, and errands. Unfortunately, the content is slim: three versions of the same dialogue. I didn’t re-write, mind you. I wrote three different takes on the dialogue from scratch, each time implying a speaker’s intention or opinion.*

I’m quite pleased with the results, since each version has parts that will make a better whole. But I have thousands of words and a dozen chapters to go. And I must mention the obstacles on the horizon: my original antagonist has changed to a helper, the main antagonist hasn’t reared his stupid head yet, and the outlined ending stinks worse than the final entry of a series.**

Now I’m off to face the day – and the deadline.


*If you’re wondering where I got the idea, it’s not from any book I’m using. I was at a teacher’s meeting about reading and the facilitator asked us to look for different implied bias in the same text. So it’s a reverse-engineered writing exercise.

**I needn’t name one. You, dear reader, are already remembering a book series or a TV program that disappointed or enraged you.