Monday, February 28, 2011


I am pleased to announce that, as of this moment, I have written 50,114 words in the month of February. Thank you all for your encouraging words yesterday. I hope to continue my productivity both in my fiction and in my posting throughout the coming months.


The Journey:
Total for the Year: 73,550 words.
Goal for the Year: 500,000 words.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Today I Wrote 5,000 Words

Well, 5,595, actually. I could probably hit 6,000 today if I wanted to. But that would sacrifice a small portion of my sleep, which will prevent me from getting my work done tomorrow.

So, yeah. That's why I've been so absent lately.

As you may recall from my last post (about two weeks ago, now; I know, I know, I'm sorry), I was having a bit of a struggle with the whole perseverance thing. Well, that came to a sharp and frightening head sometime in the past week or so and demanded the entirety of my attention to overcome (along with, you know, school and living and such).

Thus, the blog took an unfortunate hit.

I am back now, however, with exciting news and a renewed vigor.

First bit of news, I'm going to reach my word count for this month. I don't want to celebrate too soon, as I actually need to do the writing tomorrow. But once I do, I'll have produced 50,000 words this month. I'll be right on track to continue this Journey to 500,000 words in a year.

That's kind of exciting. Especially since it's February, the shortest month of the year. If I can be this productive in February, imagine what I can do with July or August or so. (Heck, NaNo will be no problem, come November.)

I am trying very hard to keep myself from growing cocky and over-confident. I saw the damage that can do to me during the past weeks, and I don't want to go there again. I also saw the damage that can be done by doubting myself. If there's one I really want to take away from the past three days (during which I have produced 10,000 words), it's encouragement that I am capable of so much more than I expect out of myself. If I set my expectations high, and actually, honestly work to meet those goals, I can reach staggering accomplishments like today.

Sorry for the self-pep-talk. I'm going to have some more substantial content coming again soon. I know I made some fairly concrete and bold promises over the past couple of months, and I also know that I haven't fully met those promises. I can't say that I'm going to rise up and fulfill them all the time from here on out. But I do think that I'm going to do a better job of it for a while once again.

I'm looking forward to seeing where this goes.

Total so far for February: 46,062 words.
Goal for February: 50,000 words.

Total so far for 2011: 69,498 words.
Goal for 2011: 500,000 words.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

On Perseverance

I don't want to come off as an ungrateful, whiny idiot or anything. It's just that the challenges of writing have been on my mind a lot lately, so it's what I'm going to write about (again) today.

Alright, here we go.

One thing, more than anything else about writing, I think is going to bother me throughout my life. It's something that I think a lot of people don't think about, or don't realize, or don't fully understand the significance of.

The work is never done.

That's it. If you choose to write -- to be a writer, rather -- you choose to work in a field where you never, ever stop. Sure, you might finish one project, but -- if you're a writer -- the next day you're starting right in on the next one. Sometimes you're working on two or three (or more) different projects of varying sizes and intensity at the same time.

If you are a writer -- as opposed to someone who writes -- then your work is never finished. And this can be really disheartening.

This can be especially grating when you really bring it down to the daily level. And I know it's the same thing we all (for the most part) face in one form or another, but again, I think it's something a lot of people forget about for writers.

Basically, my day consists of two priorities: the writing, and everything else. I really do have to categorize it that way. If not, then I get bogged down in all of the other activities and tasks that could or have to take up my time. So, right there, we have conflict. Writing, especially right now while I'm not being paid for it, is competing with everything else in my life that wants (or could want) my attention. Sure, the actual act of writing isn't necessarily difficult (compared with a lot of other things), but the sheer mental will and determination that is required to compartmentalize my day in order to give myself time to write, and then to actually sit down and do the writing, is enormous.

Put another way. Right now, I'm aiming for a high quantity of words for the year. This requires me to produce a high quantity of words each day, because I'm certainly  not going to sit down on December 31st and write 500,000 words. I just don't think that's humanly possible. Now, in addition to this large sum of words, I am also, of course, trying to produce quality work in some form or another. Whether it's a well-designed story or a few insightful blog posts or some neat character sketches, I'm always looking to improve my mastery of this craft overall. This requires quite a bit of attention and that attention is mentally draining.

So, every day, I am fighting an uphill battle against time, school, friends and family, leisure time, eating, sleeping, and my own reluctance to produce my designated word counts. I stay up late, I skip my personal reading time, I resist the urge to watch a movie, I don't go out to a party -- whatever it takes to meet the goal.

And then, once I've done it and I settle in all satisfied for the night, resting easy with confidence in my own ability, I go to sleep. And the next morning, I have to do it all over again. The same challenges and the same reluctance greets me the moment I get a chance to think about it. Which is usually right after I finally decide to roll out of bed.

(I'm sure many of you are wondering why I would even consider doing this for a living if I'm so reluctant all the time. Short answer is: I'm not reluctant all the time, and I truly love writing more than anything else... most days. Long answer... is long.)

It occurs to me, of course, that this isn't a conflict unique to writers. We all face it in one form or another. The most applicable example, to me (aside from writing), is faith. Many people adhere to regular Bible-reading schedules or a prayer plan or meditation or whatever as a means to strengthen their faith. We set daily goals (if we're smart about it) and try to meet them every day and we hope that, by doing this, we will grow stronger in our faith. A nebulous concept at best.

I don't know about you, but it's really hard for me to read the Bible most days. It's not that it's especially dense literature or that I don't have the time. It's just that stupid, universal human reluctance to do anything that's really good for us. Exercise is the same way, for example. And so is eating healthy. They're all things filled with good intentions -- and potentially good results -- that usually fall flat due to some excuse or another, but it's really just our resistance to improvement, our fear of success.

Steven Pressfield talks about this a lot in his book The War of Art. It's good. You should read it. He explains the whole "resistance to good things" and "fear of success" stuff (plus a lot more) better than I ever could. But maybe I'll try someday anyway.

(Note, see my 6 Feb 2011 post for a brief update on the ongoing agents debate.)

Friday, February 11, 2011

Stalling Out at 30k

I'm at that point in my word counts right now where things get difficult.

I recognize this point now -- as opposed to the past three or four projects where I would just come up against it and shrug. It's right around the 30k or 35k mark. The writing just stalls out.

It's not that I've run out of ideas or don't know what to write next. I definitely know where the story goes and usually I'll have the next few scenes or story arcs blocked out in my head. What happens is that I simply hit a mental block and don't want to write anymore.

Naturally, this is something I have to overcome.

And I have overcome it, in the past. I've written two "novels." That is to say, I've written at length on two continuous streams of text that congeal together to form some semblance of a story.

I've attempted several others.

Each time I start a project, I can see improvement in my skills with word usage, character development, world building, and plot. My craft improves, in other words.

But this 30,000 mark is still a challenge for me.

My first completed work, "Runic," totals around 32,000 words. Right. On. The Mark. I hadn't realized this until today, when I identified this 30,000 mark as the bane of my productivity.

Now, I've talked in the past about how "Runic" needs to be revised. But that's something of a lie. Truth is, the book needs to be totally rewritten -- possibly even re-imagined. There are solid ideas in there, and the core concept of the character dynamic is a solid one (when I have the skills to pull it off), but the rest of it is flat, haphazard, and way too simple.

I think I now have a reason (aside from a simple "I-wasn't-a-good-writer-back-then" explanation). Put simply, I was brought up short by the 30,000 mark. I didn't want to go past it, for whatever reason, so I cut corners, simplified world and plot details, cheated my characters out of there development, and otherwise squeezed the life out of my work in order to maintain my secure-feeling barrier of 30,000 words.

Almost one year after starting "Runic" (which took about two months to finish), I started work on "Godslayers." It's a project that I am still very excited about -- one that I knew was going to be more ambitious than anything I had seriously attempted before. I worried that I might not have had enough practice writing completed stories and single novels and et cetera before embarking on such an epic journey (I still worry about these things, actually). In the end, however, I decided I didn't care. Epic fantasy is what I'm passionate about. So that's what I write about.

I think you can guess where this is going.

Yeah, stopped around 30,000 words.

Again, it's not that I didn't know what to write. I had just finished a major action sequence for the book -- the first of many that I've envisioned. I knew where the overall plot was going, I was beginning to settle into writing the characters. The world was fleshed out from months of research, and the plot was set for at least another 60,000 words from months of outlining.

But I just stopped. I claimed that I was growing burned-out. I needed to take a break. School was growing more busy. I needed to come at it with a fresh mind.

Lies. All of it.

I don't know what the truth is about this subconscious barrier. But if I were to make a guess at it, I'd say that it's fear on several levels:

Fear of the unknown -- I'm comfortable at 30,000 words; I've done it before, so it's not as much of a milestone.

Fear of success, perhaps -- a good portion of myself can't believe that my fragile self is capable of producing tomes like Brandon Sanderson, Robert Jordan, George R.R. Martin, and others, even though my entire self wishes to do so.

It may very well be a fear of letting go -- usually by the 30k mark, the dust of my faltering first steps within the project are beginning to settle and the world is coming alive with more detail than I had initially imagined, which should allow me to set my characters free and see what they do; but I'm always afraid of what my characters will get themselves into when they deviate from my handcrafted outline (however meager that outline is).

Actually, come to think of it, the problem here could simply be that I don't trust my characters to take care of themselves. Which, of course, means that I as an author am not comfortable enough writing them yet. Which further means that I need to spend more time on character development before starting a project.

Which... is something I keep telling myself. *shrug* I never learn, do I?

Anyways, triumph moment of this story: I have made it past the 30k mark.

With NaNo, I finished off the novel at 60,000 words. Give or take. If my memory serves, the 30,000 mark was a difficult one to pass, but I'll bet I can't even remember or figure out when that was by reading the text. And it doesn't matter that I had difficulty, because I still pressed through to meet my goal (and then some).

So that's what I'm going to do here. And with every project I write go forward until the day I die.

Anyone else? Can you identify any weird mental blocks or rhythms in your writing?

The Journey to 500K.
Current Progress: 40,634/500,000 words

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Lessons from Andrew Crofts

Today, in my "Writing for a Living" class, freelance writer and ghostwriter Andrew Crofts came as a guest speaker. He wrote one of our textbooks, The Freelance Writer's Handbook, and generally knows what he's talking about. Like much of the older generation of current professional writers (folks who were trying to get started in and around the 70s or so), Crofts had to find his own way of doing things -- sentiments shared by other creative writers that I've mentioned on this blog (Dean Wesley Smith, Kurt Busiek, Stephen King, etc.) I found Mr. Crofts to be a very knowledgeable person and I'm going to take this opportunity to share what I can of that knowledge.

Perhaps the most important thing I got out of Mr. Crofts lecture is an excellent description for both what a craftsman is and also what a craftsman does.

As you know, this blog is entitled "The Craftsman's Journey," and some of you may be wondering: Well, what's all that about? It's not just a whole lot of flowery language (although it does sound rather nice, in my opinion). It actually does mean something. Essentially, my goal is to chronicle my efforts to learn various crafts, with writing being the primary one among them.

And yes, writing is a craft. It can be learned, it needs to be practiced, and you have to market it. (I know, I know. I've been harping on this a lot lately. It's just where my attention has been at, that's all.)

Mr. Crofts summed this up quite well. He said that, as a writer, you can view yourself in one of two ways.
1. "I am an artist."
2. "I am a craftsman."
He then put these two mindsets into a practical light by using the carpenter as an example.

As a carpenter, if you are an artist, you'll likely go out and create a beautiful piece of furniture. Maybe you have an interest in old, English-style wardrobes. You know, like in Narnia. You'll spend several thousand dollars purchasing the high-quality mahogany and polishes and finishing solutions that are necessary materials. You'll of course need the tools, if you haven't gotten them already. You'll probably make a few mistakes the first time you cut a few pieces and so you'll have to do those over -- which will cost you more time and money. And, of course, you still have to live and eat, so there goes a few thousand more dollars.

BUT, after a few months of dedicated work, or maybe even a year or so depending on how large and ornate this wardrobe is, you'll find that you have a gorgeous piece of furniture. I mean, it's just ridiculous how magnificent this is.

Now, many of us (or at least myself) would be more than happy to have crafted such a beautiful piece of art that we would likely keep it in our home, proud of such an accomplishment. But if you're a carpenter, you need to sell it. You need to support yourself and recoup your losses and continue perfecting your craft in order to sell more and support yourself and... well, you get the idea.

So now you go out to sell it.

Except... between the costs of the materials and the food you ate and everything, you're going to need to charge quite a bit of money for this piece in order to break even. And, of course, you still need to eat so that will drive the price up even more.

Well, you certainly don't know anyone with the kind of money who would be willing to pay thousands and thousands of dollars for a wardrobe -- even if it is the nicest one you've ever seen, if you do say so yourself. And then there's the whole issue of space. Who do you know who has a house or a room large enough to put this blasted thing in? I mean, it's enormous!

That's the artist's approach. It's rather daunting, I know. But that's where the craftsman comes in.

See, the craftsman will go around the neighborhood (or whatever your equivalent wants to be) and start talking to people, saying "What can I make for you?", "What do you need me to make?", "What do you need from me?" They'll print up little pamphlets and business cards that say: "Andrew Crofts, Carpenter, Whatever you want me to make." Or something similar.

Sure, maybe the craftsman doesn't make any connections with the first round of business cards. Or even the second. But eventually, someone, somewhere, is going to want some handmade wooden furniture. And then, when they go looking around for a carpenter, they'll find your business card, with all of your contact information, and they'll get in touch with you and say "Hey, I want a chair."

So then you say "Great," and you make a chair. Sure, it's not quite what you were hoping to make, or be known for, or whatever. But it's work, and it's work in the field you're passionate about -- carpentry, wood-working. It might not be your favorite project ever, but you do it, because that's what people want and need.

After you finish the chair, you deliver it, and then you've got a happy client. That client talks to his or her friends about this wonderful new chair they've got (because you always make sure that you produce quality merchandise) and pretty soon other people are wanting high-quality woodwork from you, Mr. Marketing Craftsman Carpenter.

And how knows? Maybe you'll be reworking the cabinets in somebody's kitchen and you'll look over into the next room and there will be this nice big space that's just begging for a mahogany wardrobe to fill. And then you can tell your clients about your wardrobe -- maybe even offer to make another one in a smaller size if that's what they'd prefer -- and they might ask you to make one for them.

Of course, they might not. But that's the chance you take.

Now, how does this relate to writing? I would hope it makes sense, but I'll go ahead and provide some more direct advice from Mr. Crofts.

First, if you want to be a full-time writer, it seems to be vitally important that you possess an extreme dislike for having a real job. You need to really not want a job in order to have the tenacity to become a full-time writer. Otherwise, you'll likely just give up and leave all the writing jobs to other professionals, who have just a little bit more patience than you. This is what Brandon Sanderson did. He didn't want to have a day job, and so he worked constantly at a really high level of production all through college and for a number of years afterwards in order to get his writing up to a publishable level. And now look at him. (He's basically a superstar of Fantasy right now, if you don't already know.)

Next, it is very important for you to write as much as you can and to do interesting things. A writer is someone who introduces a world of readers to interesting experiences and/or ideas that the reader might not have encountered otherwise. It's hard to do that if you spend all of your days locked in a cupboard, hunched over a desk, staring into a flickering screen (much as I am doing right now.)

Now, taking those two factors from above, we apply them to the metaphor of the craftsman.

A few principles:

It's important to identify the difference between selling your work and marketing it.

If you're selling your work, you're basically producing something that you think is interesting or otherwise of value, and then trying to find someone to buy it. This can work, and it's generally the kind of thing you do with a career in fiction, but it's very difficult and requires multiple attempts and a really thick skin.

When you're marketing your work, you look around and try to find out what people need. Then you find a way that you can give it to them. Filling slots in magazines and newspapers, who need to produce the same quantity and quality of work each day, week, or month, is a great way to do this. Find the stories that no one else wants to write, or the places no one else wants to go, or the perspective/angle/idea that no one else has, and see if you can fill that role. After that, it's just a matter of contacting the editor and selling the article (oh, yeah, and you'll need to write it once they've approved the idea.)

Whether or not you're trying to sell a novel or market your services, it's important to shop yourself around constantly. Always have stuff in the mail (and always keep track of where that stuff is). You're not going to sell any writing by leaving it sitting there on your dining room table or (even worse) on your hard drive. If you have something to sell, it needs to be sitting on an editor's desk, preferably with the editor's eyes scanning the lines of text. If you have writing services to sell, then your name needs to be on that editor's desk, preferably with some writing samples and a list of recent publications attached.

That's another thing. Anything you can get in print is going to be money in the bank later on. Don't be too proud to take a writing job, of any kind. Even if it's just a small features piece in the local news paper and it isn't going to pay a dime, it's worth it. At least in the early days. You need to build up a portfolio of public, professional work that you can reference when you're querying editors. Whether you're trying to pitch an article idea to them or you're trying to sell them on your finished manuscript, editors like knowing that they're going to bet on someone with a track record. They want to know that they're working with a professional and have some reassurance (however small) that the writer can deliver what they're promising.

Wow, this post has gone on for quite a while. In case you haven't been able to tell, I've been spending a lot of time lately learning about the business side of writing. I'm still doing a lot of actual writing, of course, but that's really only half of the job here. I wouldn't be surprised if I found myself writing more articles on this subject in the future. For the time being, however, I'm not going to make any promises.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Myth-Busting with Dean Wesley Smith

So... this is going to more a self-serving post. I've recently read through all of Dean Wesley Smith's posts on "Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing," and there are a few I want to keep track of as I begin to make intentional strides toward getting myself started in this business (and yes, it is a business).

Overall, I found Smith's articles on the publishing to be thought-provoking and informative. His ideas certainly challenged long-held beliefs of my own and they have encouraged me to learn a variety of new things and to never stop learning, regardless of the subject.

A few of his thoughts appear, currently, to be a bit over-the-top. However, I am certainly not going to challenge him on what has worked for his career thus far.

More to the point, there are over a dozen articles that I found especially helpful and applicable to my situation and set of assumptions about the writing/publishing business. These are deep-rooted concepts that have guided me in my attempts thus far and seeing them challenged is painful, enlightening, encouraging, and all manner of other emotions in between. Thus, for my benefit (with the hope that some of these things might interest any of you as well), I am compiling them here in an order that makes sense to me.

Here we go:

Making Money Writing Fiction

The Myth: Can't Make Money in Fiction

The Myth: Only 300 Writers Make a Living

The Publisher's Perspective

The Myth: New York Works as a Quality Filter

The Myth: You Can Only Sell What's Hot

The Myth: Follow the Rules to Get Published

The Act of Writing

The Myth: Writing is Hard

A Note: Speed

The Myth: Writers Don't Need to Practice

The Myth: Rewriting

A Note: Not Rewriting Does Not Mean Sloppy Writing

The Myth: Researching Fiction

The Career of Writing

The Myth: Rejections

The Myth: Self Promotion

The Myth: Self-Publishing is a Bad Idea

The Dangers of Agents

The Myth: Agents Can Help With Careers

The Myth: Agents Take Care of Your Money

A Note: Agents and Contracts

A Note: Agent Agreements

And Finally

The Myth: "You Have It Made When..."

I just want to say, once more, that I think the entire series is worth reading. These here are just the ones that stand out or really speak to me, personally, as a writer and a person. By all means, let my sample here interest you. But I hope that it encourages you to read the rest of the series if you have any interest at all in the writer's life, the business of publishing, or the potential livelihood of a loved one who may have chosen this profession. Mr. Smith here may not know everything, but he knows enough to paint a stark picture of what this career holds in store for those who seek it.

Until next time, then.

EDIT: 13 Feb 2011 -- I was poking around the "Writing Excuses" website earlier today, and I found an episode the guys did responding directly to Dean Wesley Smith's series of articles on agents. It's an excellent counterpoint to Smith's extremism. The comments, as well, are well-reasoned and insightful. Definitely worth a listen and a read if you're more interested in this ongoing debate about the worth of agents.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Writing for a Living

Hm, no internet yesterday at the house here, otherwise this would've gone up then.

Really quick, before I get started for the day, my good friend and fellow writer Matt over at The Vanishing Blog posted a few nice words about my own.
Here's the link:

I'm done with my first week of classes now. There's going to be a lot of writing coming up this semester. I would say that I hope I can keep up with it. But judging by my performance during this past week, I don't think there's going to be a problem. (I've averaged 2,000 words/day for the past three days; this is exciting production for me.)

One of the classes I'm taking, however, looks to prove more fun and more informative than any of the others. It's  called "Writing for a Living." It's taught by a no-nonsense Canadian who has been working as a professional writer in one capacity or another for the past 21 years. (Realization time. I can actually say something like "21 years ago" and have an idea of what the world was like then. Wow...)

On the first day of class, he asked us if anyone would like to tell the class what we are working on. So, being the talkative American that I am (and attempting to break out of my fear of feedback) I volunteered to go first.

I think we spent about twenty minutes discussing the perceived benefits and drawbacks of my writing habits, career goals, and overall approach to this craft. It was challenging, enlightening, and invigorating to discuss my goals in such stark terms with other writers. As with any writing group (and this is going to be the challenge throughout the semester) there was a mix of useful insights, though-provoking suggestions, and ignorant assumptions. Some of these writers know what they're talking about; others haven't got a clue about the business, but have some inspired projects they're working on. If yesterday's sample is any indication of the kinds of discussions we'll be having, it's going to be a worthwhile semester.

On that note, here's a list of topics we're scheduled to discuss in-class:
-Freelance Writing, the big picture with guest lecturer Andrew Crofts (wrote our textbook).
-Music Journalism, with guest lecturer Laura Barton.
-Writing Fiction for a Living, with guest lecturer James Miller.
-What Agents Look For, with guest lecturer Elinor Cooper.
-Life-writing and Editing, with guest lecturer Bridget Hourican
-Travel Writing and Other Non-fiction Genres
-Writing for the Stage
-Writing for the Screen

Now, a few of these things are obviously topics I've delved into extensively in the past (fiction writing, agent queries, freelance writing, etc.) But most of these topics are going to be brand new as far as my experience is concerned. And even with the "older" topics, I'm convinced that you can always learn something new about something you already know. (Although, I seldom follow through on practicing this ideal.) So hopefully the class will bring me some new insight into these well-worn avenues of knowledge.

So, that's the class. On a related note, I've been following an interesting thread of knowledge on the internet about writing fiction as a full-time author. Obviously, this is a topic that I'm very much interested in. However, it wasn't until recently that I began to understand the actual possibility of doing so. Yes, it's still difficult -- and these sources have made that abundantly clear how much work goes into the career -- but it seems much more reachable now.

I was probably going to separate these two posts originally. Talking about the class yesterday, and saving these websites for today. But seeing as I wasn't able to get the post up yesterday, you all get a little bonus today. (Hooray!)

Alright, here they are:

"Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing," by Dean Wesley Smith
This is the website that got me started on this recent quest for knowledge. I was linked to Smith's website as part of an ongoing debate about the usefulness of agents in representing authors (a lengthy and bitter debate that I won't summarize today.) While I was at his site, I clicked around and found that he's very open about helping upcoming authors. He's very successful financially, and he has a lot of "alternative" views on the publishing industry and the creative life in general.
His best summation of these views comes in a series of articles (he terms them as "chapters" because they will eventually be compiled into a book [or perhaps already have]) about putting to rest the persistent rumors that new writers believe when they're trying to "break-in" to the business. I've found them to be insightful and his article on the "magic bakery" (I think it's title is: "No Money in Writing Fiction") is genius.
Alright, now a brief caveat: he is very much focused on the commercial aspect of writing fiction. I don't want to judge a person's motivations or beliefs, and I don't want to make any judgments about the quality of his work without having read any of it. However, he seems less interested in the art of the craft than a number of other successful writers (George R. R. Martin, Brandon Sanderson, Stephen King, etc.). Again, I don't want to judge a book by it's cover, but... well, there is something to be said about making a good first impression.
All that aside, I think he's ideas about the business side of writing are worth considering. And he certainly encourages you to think for yourself, which I appreciate.

"Breaking In Without Rules," by Kurt Busiek
This one is a bit less practical but no less useful. Kurt Busiek is a writer for DC and Marvel comics. He's had a difficult time at breaking in, but he's managed to do so. Several times.
That's the remarkable thing about Busiek's story, and it's the point he's trying to make. There's more than one way to bake a cake. As long as you keep trying and play to your strengths and all the other inspirational cliches, you have a chance.
Overall, Busiek is a bit less optimistic than Dean Wesley Smith about your chances at turning a creative life into a full-time career, but there are still nuggets of wisdom to glean from his story.

"Mugging the Muse: Writing Fiction for Love AND Money," by Holly Lisle
I've mentioned this one before. It's not a website, but it's been instrumental at inspiring me to attempt making a living out of my writing, so I decided to include it.
Holly Lisle does a lot to help new authors. She runs a number of online workshops focused around various writing topics (character, world, language, etc.) and has written a number of books about writing, the first of which is "Mugging the Muse." It's old. It's probably outdated. And I haven't read it in years, so I don't even know how helpful it is. But for me, in my embryonic writer stage, it was perfect. I cannot emphasize this enough. If it weren't for Ms. Lisle, I don't know if I would still be a writer today.
John Shore is an interesting character. I honestly don't know what to make of him as a person.
His writing advice in the above link, however, is consistent with the rest of what I've been reading. So this website is useful if only as confirmation of what I've been promoting above.
I'm sure I've mentioned the podcast filled with writing advice for all levels by Brandon Sanderson (epic fantasy master), Dan Wells (brilliant fantasy-horror debut), and Howard Tayler (long-lasting web cartoonist) before now. If I haven't, then I have surely committed some sort of sin or crime. This podcast is fantastic. It's funny, insightful, and applicable to all levels of writing at some point or another. True, Brandon tends to dominate when he's on the cast, and there are a few episodes or approaches to topics that are less useful or less funny than usual. But the guests are fantastic, the cast is skilled, and the production value is generally top-notch. (Plus, they're eligible for a Hugo this year.)

Wow, well there's five right there. Off the top of my head. I think I'll call it a day here. It's time to actually go do that writing I was talking about earlier.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Journey to 500K Update -- A Thought on Lost Memories

I'm well on my way to 500,000 words for the year. I haven't quite settled into a routine of writing a bit each day, but I've written during a clear majority of them and have exceeded my word count expectations almost every day that I sit down.

That being said, it's time to pick up the pace. I gave myself an easy January in order to ease into things and allow time for me to work on outlining and world development. That bit isn't quite done yet, but I can't allow it to impeded my progress.

40-50 thousand is the goal for February. It's over twice as much as I had planned for January. However, I exceeded my goal for January, so I am confident that I can do so again for February.

In addition, ideas are brimming over left and right from my head right now, so I shouldn't have a problem finding material to write throughout this month. The biggest trick will probably be preventing me from distracting myself with other writing projects.

That brings me to my real musings for today: amnesia.

See, I'm well past the first act (of seven) in the novel right now, but I'm having significant difficulty making it all click together. Oh, sure, I know what's supposed to happen next and all that. Events have seldom ever been my problem. Instead, as usual, I'm having a problem convincing the characters to be people and gel with the rest of the world and story.

More specifically, my problem is with the protagonist. At the beginning of the story, I introduce him to the reader as having no memory. Shortly after this, we meet some of his allies from the past and they begin to fill him in on a few of the important bits, but never so much that you really understand his past (and neither does he).

This makes it really difficult to give the man a personality; and even more difficult to convey that personality to the audience.

Naturally, I'm going to be revealing the truth about his past at various points throughout the book (the nature of truth and memory and responsibility are all important themes in the story). But I can already tell from my outlining that these revelations are going to be spaced out quite thinly, and we're going to be in a dry patch here for most of the second act.

This is an issue. I know that I haven't established this man as a character effectively yet, so the majority of his character development in acts two and three, and then the subsequent revelations planned for acts four and five, are going to be relatively meaningless because the reader doesn't care.

I need to fix this.

But then the question becomes when do I fix it? I could try to work in some of the revelations to be earlier in the outline, but I'm trying to convince the audience that he's a certain way before dropping paradigm shifts into the story. It's kind of the core focus of the book -- I don't know if it's going to work, but I want to at least try.

I could, instead, try letting him keep pieces of his memory from the start. That would give him a much more definite personality, and it would present a multi-layered mystery (what has happened in his past, as he sees it; then, later, what actually happened in the past, etc.). I like this idea a lot.

The only problem there, then, is that I've already passed up the opening of the book and have established him as being this confused amnesiac. I know a number of authors talk about "breaking" their story halfway through by changing character personalities and introducing concepts that had otherwise gone unmentioned. I like the idea, but I've never been very good at it. Especially when it comes to characters.

So, for now, I'm just going to push through to the end (or as far as I can get this year) and keep a record of all the things that aren't working and/or need to change. Then I'll go back and have a better idea of what I'm doing on the second draft. (Yeah, sounds like a tedious process, I know. Maybe I'll talk about multi-draft writers versus outline-based writers in a future post.)

Anyways, that's where I'm at right now. If you'll excuse me, I have to go save my protagonist from the mind of a crazy circus gnome.

Current Word Count for the Year: 23,214/500,000