Quick Post-Prandial on Manuscript Maintenance

I did some time-and-motion monitoring in terms of getting changes to a manuscript fit from Scrivener to Word and cleaned and ready for The Agent to use.

Fine-cleaning two scenes (~2.5k words). That means reading them aloud, copying the pieces to a word file, then reading that to ensure it’s clean: 75 minutes.

Compiling from Scrivener to Word and cleaning up the resulting mess, adding a TOC, etc.: 75 minutes.

2.5 hours for each revision change, assuming a total copy of manuscript from Scrivener to final.

Lesson learned: Get the frickin’ manuscript done and fully cleaned ONCE before moving it into Word. Agh. Double agh.

Miscellaneous Blog Post Day

Keeping Things Updated

I was chatting with a cover artist today and after giving him my web site URL he asked me how my novel “Last Run” was coming along, since it showed I was 22% complete. Hmmm… old news. So I updated that page to reflect some of the kreative kaos underkway.

So the novel page got a rewrite. I’m meeting with a photographer Monday for an author head shot (may her camera not shatter). About a cover (for Last Run) I’ve already tipped my hand. That’s also going to need help from a marketer and editor, because I just don’t have the cycles for all of that myself. So, this web site, formatting and all, will likely change radically in the next couple of months, making it more focused on writing and easier to update and maintain.

Last Thoughts on the 2018 WLT A&E Conference

The 2018 Writers League of Texas Agents & Editors Conference was very helpful. More this year than last but more because I’m more aware of all that I don’t know instead of last year’s version of feeling smart. So yeah, worth going if you’ve never gone. Helpful, but also showing me how much more organized I need to do, and how much have have yet to do while still looking for an appropriate Daye Jobbe (as the late author Jay Lake would put it). Trello’s good at organizing things, but the real problem—and not just for me—is load paralysis. Too much to do? Play solitaire! Y’all know that one? Yeah, me too.

…But I’ve got…my wedding to arrange, my wife to murder and Guilder to frame for it; I’m swamped

So, to summarize: I’m writing one novel while editing three others, marketing a fourth to agents and a firth for Indie publishing (well, one of the three under edit, but hey, numbers!). Oh, and I’ve still got four more ArmadilloCon manuscripts to go over before the end of the month. (All hail that fair venue!)

Writing Velocity

Today (Saturday) was a 4,000-word day, and that brings me to 4,2500 words written in my last ten calendar days (including this past Thursday with no writing done). Years ago I thought 1,500 wpd was a good chunk. The Shmuley Myers books were written on an average daily cadence of 2,500 words. Zepps is cruising along at 3.65k per day and I kick myself for goofing off for a couple of those days. A pair of 7ks and a few 5+s in the mix, there.

Sure, for anyone who’s done a NaNoWriMo novel challenge, there’s no quality like massive quantity. Fellow Austin writers might remember my little video clip from the early 2000s, humble-bragging. Daughter the Elder, lying face down on her bed, was typing blind to finish her 50,000-word “novel.” (Hint: her fingers were off for five thousand of those words. We’ve sent the results to the NSA for decryption and haven’t heard back yet.) 7/17/18 Update: DtE avers that she was really blind typing. She. Scares. Me.

At these speeds there are chunks I’ve had to simply tear out because they were crap, or took the plot off a cliff. For example, over 11,000 words from the second Shmuley Myers book, An Uncertain Allegiance, because I turned an explosion into a runaway, Skyscraper meets Armageddon meets Mothra kind of even. Fun to write, and I’ve got it tucked away, but horrible. Aside from blowing up the plot it created over a dozen characters two thirds the way into the book, and… well, let’s never speak of it again.

But they’re replaced with better ones. And it’s better to get the words out, then edit, and maybe remove, and then later maybe use somewhere else, than not to write them at all. Plotters might disagree, and say that if the plot’s sufficiently laid out in detail, then wild writing sprees aren’t necessary or good. But I submit that a plotter would get perhaps more and better WPD than even I. After all, we pantsers tend to make it up as we go along, more or less.

Thoughts, anyone?

Amid, Among, Between, Betwixt

H/t to Ashwin Mudigonda for non-commercial use

Just signed up for the 2018 Agents & Editors Conference here in Austin. Last minute. Second year going. Wasn’t going to, but after working on a single query letter for the better part of the day, I might as well see if I can’t catch an agent’s eye. Researching each participating agent and editor took a few hours, but that’ll come in handy as I stalk the Wild Agent at the conference. I’m also gonna do a toss-at-the-buzzer pitch of my larger novel, Last Run, to one or two victims agents that might have an appetite for it. Of course, that means cleaning that puppy up too, before June’s end.

This interrupted writing madly a piece to submit for the ArmadilloCon Writers’ Workshop. I think this is my last year that I’ll submit. I’ve gotten quite a lot out of it but the panel sessions were where I got the most bang for my conference buck. And hopefully I can assist next year.

All this while getting the first “Angels” book cleaned up enough to send to agents. Meeting tonight with one of my writing groups for dinner and last revisions before last cleanup. And find a title. It’d be great if I had something to call it aside from a word unrelated to the story.

Book two in the series is done, at least in first draft. And #3 is already starting to come into focus in my head, so I’m getting character journeys and the larger arc or three sketched out.

And all the above is while my fascination with a paying, full-time day job increases. Doing an application right can take an hour or two for each one.

Life. Gotta love it.

On Relevance and Faithfulness (Or, Tomato, Potato)

As I (continue to) procrastinate writing the climax, denouement, and conclusion to my second novel, I’m getting great feedback from specific beta readers. One in particular read Angels just for the Jewish POV and info. Having been raised Orthodox, and gone to yeshiva, I’m no stranger to my religion, but one might be surprised as what can get forgotten over the years. And it’s important that I get this right because I’m realizing that Angels is almost perfectly written to be read by a frum (religious Jewish) audience. There are recurring tropes in how the religious are portrayed (including this movie, the latest involving Orthodox women “trapped” by their religion).

So when she pointed out that she didn’t think the word sheitel [wig] meant what I thought it meant, I was puzzled.

“No,” she said, looking at her iPad notes, “you meant to say tichel [head kerchief], right?”

I engaged in a spontaneous facepalm. And wrote the first of several notes that’ll become part of the next draft of the book.

I might “know the rules,” but not having lived the life, conflating the two into one word, instead of using the two correct words isn’t surprising. And, to a non-Jewish reader, this would fly right over their (presumably uncovered) head. But getting it right, really right, means as much as possible. Like the carpenter who sands and finishes inside corners of pieces even though no one with ever see it. I’ll know it’s the right word, and a religious woman or man reading it will understand and be less likely to snort, think “that idiot doesn’t really know how we live,” and consign it to the misguided Jewish lit pile.

One of my favorite authors wrote a book including scenes in a Temple (which is what non-religious synagogues are sometimes called in America). The names of the rabbis? John, Paul, and Mary. {crickets} Sure, it’s a fantasy novel, and so what if magic was the theme of the scene, but still: why get something basic wrong if you can help it?

Being faithful to the culture respects it, its members or adherents, and, ultimately, respects the reader as well. Because a writer wants to suspend disbelief only as much and for as long as necessary to make the scene work.

To get more info on the wig/kerchief issue, check out Rivki Silver’s blog post on sheitels, and this whimsical but accurate post regarding tichels by Andrea Grinberg in her store’s, The Wrapunzel, blog.

When the plot goes out of control

Writing this article is a way for me to procrastinate yet another major revision to my current manuscript. But it’s a learning moment for me, that’s worth sharing.

Being able to write without editing is hard for most folks to do, and pushing through that barrier makes writing… not effortless, but at least doable. There’s more creative energy available to move the plot forward.

The downside to writing first and editing later (there are many upsides) is that one can veer off the intended path. sometimes it’s a character tugging at my hand saying “check this out; I can do this, too!” Or it’s a place with gravitas sufficient to move more action to it, or from it, or because of it.

My first tear-down in this manuscript was after creating a mass casualty event. A natural progression of the actions of some characters, actually. But this is a murder-mystery, not a Bruce Willis flick. And I ended up with the chaos that typically happens after a disaster of the “dozens dead, hundreds injured” variety. And while I got about eleven thousand possibly reusable words from it, ultimately I pulled it, and the six or seven new characters introduced at about the 60k mark, out of the manuscript.

I’m now past the 70k mark. this is where things should be coming together. The number of threads decreasing, the tension focusing on who did it, and what’s the protagonist going to do about it.

Now’s also the time I’m realizing I’ve got an extra suspect. He’s threaded throughout the story, Hinted at, a cause of trauma, of mystery… I’d already edited him out of the beginning, because even I couldn’t figure out what his motives were for his actions, cool as they looked when the protagonist came across them. To me he felt like Richard Kiel in Moonraker. Interesting, glitterly, but almost a one trick pony in terms of evil. I could have made him more evil, more important. But I kept butting into the fact that he wasn’t fitting in with a smooth narrative. Other detectives kept tripping over him. He added a complexity to the search for the murderers that I had to divert time and words to explaining.

So goodbye, Evan Stone. May you appear in another novel, in a different guise. And perhaps in a nicer role; I really didn’t like this version of you.

Flipping the Page

I wanted Angels to be finished, or at least topped off, by January 1. I missed that deadline, but my real next deadline is getting back to my editor with changes to Infection, which is a whole other genre and animal. Then Last Run needs a thorough editing, and Induction, for re-release with Infection. I’ve got a couple of shorts that I want to write, and one titled Five Thousand Words that I’m rewriting after the Austin Public Library workshop. And shopping stories. And getting things together to find an agent.

I’m also going to try and emulate Marshall Ryan Maresca‘s amazing blog posting schedule. Once I have a good sense of the kind of content I want to put out.

Wow. Okay. I guess there’s plenty of work to do… Happy 2018! I hope.

From the bottom of the writing/critiquing well…

I’m watching other writers and their blog posts. Some are regular as clockwork—it’s part of their marketing campaign, their name branding, and they’ve got more time (and definitely more discipline) to keep on that track. I’ll need to do it as well—just not yet, please.

Speaking of discipline, I’ve talked with a whole bunch of writers, but more importantly people who say they “can’t write” because they don’t have the time, or can’t concentrate… Or “the usual” to writers who talk to folks on the other side.

I can easily push through 4,500 words in a day, in one sitting, when I’ve got a clear vision for what the coming scenes will bring. (And as a pantser those are visions constantly changing as the characters and situations bend the reality I’d “decreed” for the novel.)

I’ve got little sticktoitiveness when I’m not sure where the scene or characters are going. That’s when I do things like dishes, laundry, shopping—and writing posts on my blog.

That little screen grab is how I keep myself at least heading in the right direction. When I’m writing I’ve got non-spoken music (or, at least, not music with English lyrics) playing. If I’m blasting through, it’s a thirty-minute timer, with the option to just hit the reset and do another. But if I’m flagging a bit, I hit the five or ten minute timer to check the news, facebook, or a little game.

When thirty minutes seems an eternity and my characters seem embedded in tree resin, well on their way to amber, I use the ten-minute timer. Hammering hard is easy when I know there’s a break in a reasonably small number of minutes.

I also use the ten minute timer for when I need to do some online research and want to make sure I don’t get sucked down the rabbit hole of “just another link.”

That’s how I’m at 72,295 words on Angels, my current novel, and how I wrote over 173,000 words on Last Run in six months of steady, non-stressed, work. And why my blogging has been sporadic. And I’m sticking to that story.