Mar 312016
 

The short answer: almost done, but not quite.

As mentioned earlier, I was on-track to be done by the end of the month. Everything had started to align. Cody and I started churning through the polish pass; cleaning up wording, tossing unnecessary sentences, refining entire paragraphs to improve clarity and impact. After (once again) stressing over what I would do for the book’s cover, having a preconceived notion of what I wanted that cover to be, I stumbled across a stock photo1 that — though it didn’t fit the preconception — declared itself the perfect cover for this story, so I even had that part all set.

Then two things happened.

Continue reading »

  1. Ashes‘ cover is also a modified stock photo []
Mar 072016
 

I don’t know what happened yesterday, but I got up, went down to make coffee, started working on the book…and didn’t stop until I reached the end of the book.

The third draft is done!

What does that mean? The third draft is the final story- and character-revision pass. The next pass, generating the final draft, comes from an aloud read-through with Cody for phrasing, grammar gaffes, and general technical consistency. This will fill a few evenings and will also be Cody’s first actual exposure to the full text of the story, as opposed to just hearing me talk about it. Meanwhile, I’ll also be doing peripheral work: figuring out the cover, deciding what appendices to add, etc.

Most importantly, though, it means that the book is coming. Soon. Very soon.

As with Ashes, I’ll be releasing a few sample chapters here on the blog once they’re finalized. That could even be imminent, so stay tuned!

Jan 182016
 

Once again, I must thank you for your patience during the long update droughts this blog so often experiences. It’s not for lack of interest on my part, nor for lack of things to say, but rather due to feeling perpetually “behind” with everything and “Oh, hey, I should write a post about that” ideas succumbing to the maelstrom that manifests from being pulled in a million directions at once.

That said, I at least come bearing good news! The second draft of Ashes of Alour-Tan’s sequel is DONE, clocking in at just under 103,000 words. In point of fact, it’s been done for almost four weeks. The discerning and critical eyes of my Beta readers now prowl through it, assessing just how much work I’m in for when it comes time to hammer the second draft into the third (and final) draft. I’ve asked them to submit their feedback by the end of the month. My current goal is to publish the book by the end of Q1 2016 (i.e. sometime in March), a goal I very much aim to hit. Alour-Tan II1 has been with me for far too long; it needs to be out there with all of you.

In similar news, while Alour-Tan II is under review, I’ve started heavily preparing for Alour-Tan III‘s first draft. I’ve no desire to repeat the mistakes I seem to continue making by failing to properly and thoroughly outline before diving in. Every single time, thus far, starting the first any draft too early has ensnared me in some kind of mid-book plot conundrum that takes demoralizing quantities of writing time and work to resolve. I want to see those coming and fix them before they amass an umpty-thousand word juggernaut behind them. It’s also my hope and goal that this will streamline the writing process itself and, to that end, I’m presently aiming to outline, write, revise, and publish Alour-Tan III by the end of this year as well. We’ll see whether or not that actually happens.

As with the first draft, I thought it might be of interest to do something of a retrospective on the process of writing this one.

Continue reading »

  1. I don’t know if it’s smart or foolish to continue avoiding using the book’s actual name. Do I run any risks if I announce the name before the book’s up for sale? I don’t know. I also don’t know whether or not those risks are greater for a self-published author than they would be for a trad-pub author. []
Jan 202015
 

A fairly inconsistent close-out to the end of the year, followed by three consecutive 2000+ word days finally spell the completion of the first draft of Alour-Tan 2! I immediately set to outlining Alour-Tan 3 and sent off the draft to my First Reader, who has been providing me regular and fantastic feedback while progressing through the book. Once all the feedback is in, I’ll fire up a new round of Writing in Public to chronicle the second draft.

Date Written NaNo Total Overall WC Notes
Sun, Dec. 14 2187 65540 72396
Mon, Dec. 15 4399 69939 76795
Tue, Dec. 16 0 69939 76795 Went to see The Hobbit
Wed, Dec. 17 2081 72020 78876
Thu, Dec. 18 0 72020 78876 Wife’s company party
Fri, Dec. 19 826 72846 79702 Coworker’s retirement party
Sat, Dec. 20 738 73584 80440 Friend’s birthday party
Sun, Dec. 21 0 73584 80440
Mon, Dec. 22 0 73584 80440
Tue, Dec. 23 1295 74879 81735
Wed, Dec. 24 877 75756 82612
Thu, Dec. 25 0 75756 82612 End of year vacation. Didn’t quite hit the 80k I wanted to hit in the November+December timespan, but I needed to not think about any sort of work for the remainder of the year.
Fri, Dec. 26
Sat, Dec. 27
Sun, Dec. 28
Mon, Dec. 29
Tue, Dec. 30
Wed, Dec. 31
Thu, Jan. 1
Fri, Jan. 2
Sat, Jan. 3 2886 85498
Sun, Jan. 4 2109 87607
Mon, Jan. 5 2143 89750 DRAFT ONE COMPLETE

Previous Writing in Public post here.

Dec 152014
 

Per my tweet from a few days back, Act Two is done and now it’s time to run down the home stretch to the end of this draft of this book! Then begins the revision process to make it not abjectly terrible.

Date Written NaNo Total Overall WC Notes
Mon, Nov. 24 2054 40338 47194
Tue, Nov. 25 2807 43145 50001
Wed, Nov. 26 4252 47397 54253
Thu, Nov. 27 0 47397 54253 Thanksgiving
Fri, Nov. 28 2243 49640 56496
Sat, Nov. 29 994 50634 57490 Regular NaNo goal achieved. Also, a travel day, so not much time for writing.
Sun, Nov. 30 0 50634 57490 More traveling. Recovering.
Mon, Dec. 1 2513 53147 60003 Sixty thousand!
Tue, Dec. 2 0 53147 60003 Not sure what happened here.
Wed, Dec. 3 2243 55390 62246
Thu, Dec. 4 2105 57495 64351
Fri, Dec. 5 1726 59221 66077
Sat, Dec. 6 0 59221 66077 In general, I like to take one (deliberate) day off a week and that day is generally Saturday.
Sun, Dec. 7 2022 61243 68099
Mon, Dec. 8 0 61243 68099 Funky commuting plus staying out late.
Tue, Dec. 9 0 61243 68099 Movie night.
Wed, Dec. 10 0 61243 68099 Working late.
Thu, Dec. 11 0 61243 68099 More working late.
Fri, Dec. 12 2110 63353 70209 Seventy thousand!
Sat, Dec. 13 0 63353 70209 Party!
Sun, Dec. 14 2187 65540 72396

Previous Writing in Public post here.

Nov 252014
 

Odds of my being able to hit my 80,000 words-for-NaNo target are diminishing rapidly, sadly, but the standard 50,000 word NaNo target remains well within reach. I hadn’t expected to lose as many days as I have to A) allergies prompting early bedtimes/late rises, B) Bruins games, C) holiday travel, and D) holidays generally, but lost them I have. Short of hitting a consistent word count well north of anything likely for the remainder of the month, 80k is out of reach. That said, I’m solidly in the swing of the story now, so there’s at least no reason that my current momentum should abate as November turns to December.

I have to wonder at the wisdom of placing NaNoWriMo in November. October culminates in Halloween, which makes much of the month costume project time (at least, for me!). November culminates in Thanksgiving in the U.S., forcing a choice between family time and writing time. December is much the same, but with your-winter-holiday-of-choice and New Year’s. September, on the other hand, is devoid of such obligations in its entirety. If I decide to do a month-long writing push again next year (as opposed to a much more sensible lots-of-writing-all-the-time-regardless-of-the-month approach), I think I’ll kick it up two months and do it in September.

Date Written NaNo Total Overall WC Notes
Sat, Nov. 1 0 0 19271 NaNo begins, but I don’t!
Sun, Nov. 2 2709 2709 21980
Mon, Nov. 3 2769 5478 18823 Notable removal of some stuff from the existing manuscript
Tue, Nov. 4 966 6444 19789
Wed, Nov. 5 3049 9493 16349 Another big chunk of existing text removed
Thu, Nov. 6 3441 12934 19790
Fri, Nov. 7 473 13407 20263 Beer o’clock on office Fridays doesn’t do good things for my word count
Sat, Nov. 8 2145 15552 22408
Sun, Nov. 9 0 15552 22408 “Write every day” is good advice. So is “don’t work every day.”
Mon, Nov. 10 1873 17425 24281
Tue, Nov. 11 729 18154 25010
Wed, Nov. 12 0 18154 25010 Crushing Bruins loss to the Maple Leafs.
Thu, Nov. 13 2133 20287 27143 Managed to write in the morning before work, but crushing and dispiriting Bruins loss to the Habs killed evening writing.
Fri, Nov. 14 0 20287 27143 Sick, but worked from home. Called it a night pretty early.
Sat, Nov. 15 0 20287 27143
Sun, Nov. 16 3400 23687 30543 That’s better.
Mon, Nov. 17 4666 28353 35209
Tue, Nov. 18 2416 30769 37625
Wed, Nov. 19 4021 34790 41646
Thu, Nov. 20 358 35148 42004 Four hours of work here, to boot.
Fri, Nov. 21 956 36104 42960 Allergies kicking in. Fell asleep on the train home (usually the more productive of my train rides). Epic Bruins game against the Caps, ending in a 7-round shootout.
Sat, Nov. 22 0 36104 42960 Packing, travel, Bruins loss to the Habs (again!). Literally no unallocated time.
Sun, Nov. 23 2180 38284 45140
Mon, Nov. 24 2054 40338 47194

Previous Writing in Public post here.

Nov 112014
 

Taking a page from Dean Wesley Smith‘s Writing in Public series, I’m going to start documenting my NaNoWriMo-driven push to finish the first draft of Alour-Tan II.

The typical NaNoWriMo goal is to write a short novel from scratch through the month of November, totaling at least 50,000 words by the end of the month. I’ve modified those parameters to better-suit what I need to do with this book. My goal is instead to write 80,000 new words (supplementing the 20,000ish I had already written for a total of ~100,000) over the course of the month, completing the first draft in the process. I don’t include the preexisting words in my NaNo total, as that would most definitely be against the “rules” of the “competition”.

Date Written NaNo Total Overall WC Notes
Sat, Nov. 1 0 0 19271 NaNo begins, but I don’t!
Sun, Nov. 2 2709 2709 21980
Mon, Nov. 3 2769 5478 18823 Notable removal of some stuff from the existing manuscript
Tue, Nov. 4 966 6444 19789
Wed, Nov. 5 3049 9493 16349 Another big chunk of existing text removed
Thu, Nov. 6 3441 12934 19790
Fri, Nov. 7 473 13407 20263 Beer o’clock on office Fridays doesn’t do good things for my word count
Sat, Nov. 8 2145 15552 22408
Sun, Nov. 9 0 15552 22408 “Write every day” is good advice. So is “don’t work every day.”
Mon, Nov. 10 1873 17425 24281
Tue, Nov. 11 729* 18154 25010 WC as of 0900 this morning; more planned for this evening.
May 272014
 

I suspect the rash of 3D modeling posts have left many of you wondering, “Yes, yes, that’s all well and good, but what about the writing?”

Last time I wrote about writing (hm…), I felt much more optimistic about how the science fiction novel — okay, fine, it’s code-named “Prime” — could be redrafted into something more to my liking based on the invaluable feedback from my beta readers. As I went along, though, I realized that the revision process felt perfunctory. Not that the story didn’t need revision — it did and does — but rather that none of the planned and effected changes were providing that revision. After a great deal of soul-searching (and about a third of a revised draft written), I realized that the idea of the story had simply gotten away from me. As I feared back in October, what I had written wasn’t what I wanted to have written. It wasn’t the story I sought to tell.

Coincident with this realization, my wife passed on a comment from one of her aunts who had finally gotten around to reading Ashes and loved it. Just like everyone else, she was eager for the sequel and wanted to know when it would come out.

The next day, I chose to shelve Prime for now.

Instead, I turned my attention to Ashes’ sequel, for which I now have a much more solid outline, timeline, list of character motivations, and over 10,000 words written. The third Alour-Tan book is also in the late-stage “back-of-my-mind” percolation stage and my plan is to segue directly into working on it as soon as Alour-Tan II goes out to betas, which I’m angling to happen by the end of June.

I’ll return to Prime at some point, probably starting from the ground up but with an eye to using the collapsed rubble as the bedrock for the new version. For now, though, finishing the Alour-Tan series feels like the right thing to do.

Aug 162013
 

I’m going back and filling in some brackets1 on the first draft of the New Book. Once I’m done, the first draft goes out to my First Reader for initial feedback. For all intents and purposes, though, the actual work of writing the draft is complete.

I mark 8/2 as the completion date, after which I took a break for a week to recharge the batteries before diving back in for the aforementioned fill-in pass. I started this draft on 2/12, which means it took almost exactly six months from start to finish.

I’ve noted before the convoluted nature of Ashes‘ drafting process. Where the New Book stands is roughly where Ashes stood at the end of its second draft; the first draft really served as a sandbox, worldbuilding tool, and outline for the book that eventually emerged. Given that, how do the two books stack up to one another?

I keep a lot of records of my writing process. I wrote the first draft of Ashes in about 30 days3. My worldbuilding and outlining process for the New Book spanned the months of December (worldbuilding) and January (outlining, though I would end up retooling the outline midway through writing the draft). So on that front, I arguably took longer with this book, though a great deal of worldbuilding and re-outlining happened between Ashes‘ first and second drafts, too, which that 30 day span doesn’t cover.

Verdict? Tie.

Ashes‘ second draft ends up being a lot harder to pin down. Going by raw time and word count, Draft Two of Ashes took almost two years — end of November 2009 to late September 2011. Final word count for that draft was 94,120 words, representing an average rate of 142 words per day. The New Book weighs in at 90,161 words (prior to bracket-filling), representing an average rate of 495 words per day. That’s an improvement by a factor of almost 3.5.

Verdict: The New Book demonstrates a clear improvement in writing speed.

Why? For one thing, discipline and regularity. I had a regular train schedule to stick to while writing this book, which meant I had guaranteed writing windows. Because of a fun hardware quirk4, my work laptop’s wireless only works at work, meaning I could do little but write while on the train. That provided me a guaranteed 90-minutes of writing time for every day I commuted into the city.

At the beginning of June, I buckled down to hold myself to using the same morning writing window every day (except weekends), which had a marked effect on my progress.
The blue line is total word count and uses the left vertical axis. The orange line is 7-day exponentially-weighted average daily wordcount and uses the right vertical axis.
My daily wordcount from 2/1 to 6/1 averages out to ~278 words per day, but my daily word count from 6/1 to finish averages out to ~914 words per day. That’s huge. It still falls far short of my goal of ~2000 words per day, but it’s closer to 50% than 15%, which I count as a big win.

Upshot: I got faster. A lot faster. Hopefully, these speed improvements will continue to happen and I can eventually hit a point where I’m completing three to five drafts per year.

  1. See this post by Justine Larbalestier regarding brackets. []
  2. Arguably, I started it on 12/5 of 2012, but that was just a dialog spine for the last scene, so it doesn’t really count. []
  3. It was, after all, a NaNoWriMo project. []
  4. If you’re curious, here’s the Launchpad bug detailing the problem []