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?

Critiquing and Paper Cuts

I’m lucky to live in a city where there are overlapping supporting circles of writers in every possible genre. I’m involved in a few writing groups, including an invite-only one, the venerable and awesome Slug Tribe (that just got a great write-up in the Austin Chronicle), as well as occasionally hitting a Meet-Up group every now and again. Plus the Writers’ League of Texas is based here, with its annual Editors and Agents conference and the cozier, and perhaps more “incestuous” ArmadilloCon (and I mean that in the least creepiest way!). And the Austin NaNoWriMo group, a once and future way to spend November.

Three of the above perform critiques on pieces. The most paper-prolific by far—and I say this with two bandaged fingers—is Slug Tribe. Probably best to bring at least fifteen copies of a piece. With a 5,000 upper limit, that’s approximately twenty sides of writing (more if there’s a lot of dialog). On average sixty percent of Sluggers write comments on the pieces, which I dutifully reel back and bring to my editing operating theater. If you’re keeping score at home, that’s 300-400 pages single-sided. Which I try never to do, what with the lack of available earthworms at my place.

So here’s the evening’s tidbit: collate them by page, putting them in reverse page order (so you’re working from the back of the piece forwards). Take the “global” written comments (thank you, thank you all for the thought put into them!) and put them at the back of the pack. Why?

  1. People tend to comment less towards the end of the piece. On-the-spot editing is tiring, and once a reader has made their point, why flog the expired equine?
  2. Going backwards makes it harder to skip something because the mind forms the logical construct of the paragraph, and not the backwards verbs of the placement.
  3. Those pesky page numbers mean very little when going through the tenth set of edits. What was on page one, with an easily spotted paragraph shape is no longer there. That means wasting brain and time trying to find something that there. Going backwards en masse means never having to figure out where you were before you carved up two paragraphs and inserted four clauses.
  4. It’s hard to know who commented on a page, until you get the the end (first pages). This means addressing each suggested edit on its own merit, and not on the merit of the author making the comment. Just because they’re a great writer doesn’t mean their edits have a greater weight than a sharp-eyed newcomer.

Enjoy a slightly less painful time editing your next critiqued work!

“Last Run” Topped Out

By Leif Ørnelund – Oslo Museum: image no. OB.Ø59/2680 (Byhistorisk samling), via oslobilder.no., CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=23247983

When a building’s top floor is in place, especially for tall buiildings, they’re “topped out.” Usually a tree, sometimes a flag.

Authors should have something analogous for a novel. Even if we’re not trying to appease the tree gods.

Sunday I pitched two projects to an agent at the Writers League of Texas Agents & Editors conference. A win for me, at my first pitching, would be “sure, I’d like to see the first ten pages and a query letter via email.” The agent with whom I chatted wanted to hear about two of my projects: my current novel, Last Run, a post-apocalyptic tale, and my Induction series, a “hot” SF set of novels. She wanted the first three chapters and a synopsis of the first, and then maybe the second. Yoiks.

Yesterday I “topped out” the novel, tearing up at the last scene. Last Run currently stands at around 173k words, and the sweet spot for novels in that category is closer to 85k words.

So… behold the mighty editor’s pen, out and primed in red.