lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
This is just here for the record; not much to show for the past couple months.

April:

Haley novel = 38 (I managed to work in a line I really liked and hadn't previously been able to find a place for.)
original short stories = 15
Total new words in April = 53

Queries sent = 1

Looking back at goals, I did get my taxes done. And the flu is gone, though there is a trace of a lingering cough that I'll be very glad to see the back of.


May:

Falling From Ground = 40
original short stories = 184 (incl. more clown history!)
Total new words in May = 224

There were also a couple quick edits on ...And The Kitchen Sink that didn't actually change the word count.

Short stories submitted = 2


What can I say? I've rather had my mind on other matters lately.


I'm not setting targets for June, either; still getting my feet under me from real-life matters. I've an unaccustomed amount of critiquing to do; got the stuff for the library group done just in time, and now there's the 4th Street workshop coming up. I have been fiddling with some living-room fanfic lately, which is a nice low-demand way to ease back into writing. And I poked at Green Ring a little the other night.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Repeat as necessary.
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
Coming into Chapter 2 of Falling From Ground, I had the problem that I was looking at a giant unrelieved block of navel-gazing. Some of that's inevitable and even appropriate -- the MC's got quite a mess inside his head that he needs to sort out -- but there needs to be something actually happening, too, as leavening. And so when action starts happening that is related to the mess, in a few chapters, it won't be too much of a change of pace.

Went out to dinner with the housemate and tossed the problem around, and now someone's following him. Don't know who or why, yet, but that's okay. But the words still weren't happening. I'm coming up on end-of-month, and despite having sailed well over quota last month, I'm looking at a hell of a push to make word-count this time.

This is incredibly frustrating and more than a little scary. Beginnings are supposed to be the easy part! But then I got to thinking about the Haley novel, and how I had to re-research Zurich three times. And most of the messing-about-in-Zurich stuff is in the earlier parts.... So I checked my notes:

It took me five months to write Chapter 2 of Haley.

And something like nine months for the second chapter of Highway of Mirrors, though there's some first-novel learning-curve there. Which means this isn't a sign that this novel is going horribly off the rails, or that even the easy parts will be hard and nothing will ever be easy again. This is just part of my process.

It makes sense, when the enthusiasm for a new project meets the tedium of actually making it happen. And it's not necessarily a part of my process that I have to keep unaltered; I still want to make quota for this month, if I can. And I don't think the lull is due to any back-brain work that needs to be done: I can still generate world-building at the drop of a keystroke, for example. But it's useful to know that this is a thing I do, and right about at this point in a new novel, pretty consistently.

Now, get back to work.
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
I was officially on vacation writing-wise for June, so there are no quotas, no goals, no nothing to make or miss. Ahhhhhh. Nonetheless, just for the record:

tweaked Haley novel: 19 words
started Falling From Ground: 367 words
started the bakery story: 916 words
figuring out that I needed to get out of my own way and just roll with whatever the back-brain offers up: priceless

Meanwhile, I've spent the past couple of weeks battling the yard into submission. Which has its satisfactions, and ghu knows it needed to be done, but it was supposed to take days, not weeks (and counting). It's time to, if not get back on the horse, at least wander out to the stable and make sure the tack is clean.

Still no formal quotas for July, but let's see some activity, eh?

May Word Count / Goals

Wednesday, June 4th, 2014 11:22 am
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
And, with 4162 new words in the month of May, the Haley novel is done!

That's "done", of course. It's a novel, after all.

Technically, the writing was done by the end of the month, but the de-bracketing got done the next day. However, I'm giving myself a one-day grace period on account of getting the edit letter on my first ever professional sale OMG at the same time I was trying to wrap up the novel. And there's still the beta-review to be done, and whatever revisions come out of that.

But it's a kind of done, and I'll take it.

(My unstated goal was actually to finish before MediaWest. That didn't happen. Neither did finishing during MediaWest. And I'd meant "done" to mean done with the beta-revisions, too. But given how hard the last couple of chapters, and especially the last two scenes, were fighting me, I'm delighted to be any kind of done at all.)

It feels very weird, and immensely freeing, to be done with this thing. I've had "must finish book" repeating in my head for months now, to the point that I wasn't sleeping well toward the end because of it. And it's been nearly four years, start to for-now-finish, that this story's been on my plate (though I did, to be fair, take half a year off to write ...And The Kitchen Sink). It's been through one complete plot change and another significant alteration, and more stuck bits than I can rightly count. And now it's "done". There's still the beta-revisions on the last chapter, and then it's going to be drawered for a bit and we'll see what comes out of that, but it feels like an enormous weight is finally off my shoulders.

Oh, and it's tentatively titled Truth From Lies, unless I decide otherwise.


And now? I'm taking some time off. I'll write some short stories, maybe even some fanfic, but for the next month or two I'm not undertaking any large projects. I also need to do some hard-core querying on Highway of Mirrors; I still have that date with the AAR database that I've been putting off to concentrate on Haley. Falling From Ground and Financial Wizardry are still waiting in the wings, but I want some down time before I tackle figuring out another set of novel-sized issues.
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
Yesterday, I took the penultimate scene, previously written and naggingly unsatisfactory, and completely overhauled it, adding emotion and stage business and a practical reason for it to exist in the first place, cutting chunks and changing others and adding half again its length. I think it's better now; at the very least, there's certainly more of it.

This must be how the word-vomit crowd writes. My god, it's exhausting. I can't imagine why anyone would do this to themselves on a regular basis. I'd pushed out the original version of the scene on the grounds that I had to write something, if only so I could have something to fix. And it was the right approach for this scene, this time, but dear lord, I'm glad I don't do it that way all the time.

Also, I figured out what was wrong with the end of the scene. It wasn't any of the things I'd thought of before, and I can't believe I didn't see it sooner.

And today, I just have the last scene to tackle. It's coming incrementally, and slowly, but at least it's coming. So far, anyway. And much of it's coming jigsaw-style, which is a frustrating way to work, but is a damned sight better than nothing and seems to produce just as good results in the end. Onward.

*bash* *bash* ...oh

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014 01:54 pm
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
Writing: The process of banging your head against a brick wall until one of you falls down, and the blood drops fall in such a way as to form words.


I have figured out that one of the problems with the fighting-me-every-step-of-the-way final chapter is that I didn't know the antagonist's motivation. Specifically, there's an action X that's been bandied about in earlier chapters as a possibility, an action that she does not ultimately take. I know that she doesn't take action X; it would be wrong for the story, and it would be wrong for her character. But why doesn't she take action X? Why doesn't she take action X?

Five minutes after recognizing this question, I had the answer. And shortly after that, I had a small chunk of new dialog, and the necessary bit to make all the other bits of the scene fall into the order they should obviously be in. And not long after that, there was the opening scene of the chapter, neatly done.

As always, it helps a lot to ask the right questions.

The next bit that's being sticky involves two characters having an awkward conversation, which is difficult because awkward conversations are. I already suspect that I will not manage to imply certain characterization-related things as gracefully as I had hoped, but oh well. Forward momentum.

The next sticky bit after that is going to bring me back to the antagonist's motivation again. I know what happens and what kind of scene it's going to be; I know what she does and why. But I don't know what she thinks about it, and I'm going to have to, even if only a fraction of that comes through in the actual writing.

The last time I got stuck like this on an end scene, I tried writing it from the POV of a different character and then re-wrote it to match the POV of the rest of the book, and it helped a lot. I'm not going quite that far this time, but I did run some lines through the brain to clarify how the antagonist is seeing the scene.

And I discovered something interesting, which the end of that last sentence hints at.

The Haley novel is written from the single POV of the protagonist, in close-ish third person past tense. I like it that way, I'm comfortable with it. But if I were to write a scene from the POV of the antagonist, it would have to be in present tense. Because that's the way she thinks. Even though the entire book, as written, is in past tense. Even though I'm generally not keen on present tense, and certainly don't generally write in it. Huh.

There's a wealth of information about the antagonist's mind-set, in this. How she thinks of her role in the world, how she looks at the past and the future and her place in them. How, perhaps, she maintains herself in a very contradictory set of circumstances.

And hopefully, how she's going to get through this last scene, because it needs to get written, dammit.

April Word Count / Goals

Thursday, May 1st, 2014 11:47 am
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
Haley novel: 2569
Total new words in April: 2569

Yeah, totally blew my quota. There are excuses; Science Festival at the local university ate several evenings and an entire weekend, and of course there were taxes. But mostly it was because Chapter 14 kept kicking my ass. And 15 is being even more obstreperous.

I am an intuitive writer, and story comes to me as words, not as pictures or movie images or, ghod forbid, an intellectual decision to write something that works like [this]. Ideally, it comes as the first words, following naturally from the scene before. Sometimes it's a chunk from the middle of a scene, a sentence fragment or even a paragraph, but it generally comes attached to enough stuff in my head that I know what the surrounding words will be like. And this works great, about 95% of the time.

The end of this book is being the other 5%. I know what kind of scenes I need, to wrap up the various sub-plots, but for most of it I have NO WORDS. And the words I do have aren't coming with the necessary context attached to them, and what context they do have is... going to take some juggling to make it fit on a purely practical level in-story. So I'm having to sort out on a purely intellectual level what [this] scene will be, and what order it will come in, and what sort of emotional weight it will have, and how much screen time it merits... and that is not how I normally work! So it is coming slowly, and hard.

Having consciously bashed out the approximate shape of the end of the book, I did finally start getting some words yesterday, lines and even one or two paragraphs spread scattershot through the last half-dozen scenes. It's a very jigsaw-puzzle way of working, and it hazards things not fitting once I finally write up to them, but it seems to be what I've got to work with this time. So work I shall.


The query goal was to go through the AAR database, and that... didn't happen. It's still a good idea, and I still intend to do it, but it may have to wait for a little while.



May's goal: finish the book.

lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
What is it with this novel, that every time I say it's finally going decently, it stalls again? I am well and truly stalled now. Though I did manage a tricky bit of revision, small in terms of wordcount but significant in terms of plot. Yes, people have cell phones. If you want them to not have cell phones -- and there is a sound in-story reason for this, as well as the author-convenience reason -- you have to do something to take their cell phones away.

Now I just need to finish the bloody thing. About another chapter and a half should do it, which I could do in a week if the words would just come. Why won't the words come?!?
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
I hesitate to say anything for fear of jinxing it, but this time the lull in posting is due to the writing going better. Not swiftly and well (is "swell" a contraction of that?), but better.

I correctly determined that the "stuck" was the kind of stuck that needs to percolate for a bit, rather than the kind that needs to be pushed through. And the percolating yielded an insight into a character's motivation. It's not much of a change: the same events will still happen, and at most, a couple of lines will get said by a different person, but suddenly now it's writable.

Brains, I swear.
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
Haven't been posting much here lately, which generally means the writing's been going either really well, or really poorly. Yeah, I wish.

So Wendig had a post yesterday on The Varied Emotional Stages of Writing A Book, and as usual with such lists, half of it doesn't apply to me at all. But of the things which do apply, several are stuck on with industrial-grade adhesive, so much so that I'm going to quote the most applicable (and the shortest, which is only appropriate) in its entirety:

12. I Wrote Four Words Today (“The Trickled Pee”)

Every word is like extracting a rotten tooth with a pair of rusty needle-nose pliers. It is a day of great effort that yields nearly no result. A rich, full fruit tree with one fucking apple dangling.

That was yesterday. I had the whole afternoon and evening, and a super mocha... and I got something like 108 words. All day, for about 108 words.

This is the bottom of the trend so far this month, but the high points weren't all that impressive, either. (Though pleasingly, if I can choke out a mere 250 words two days out of three, that's still on track for quota. Such as it is.) I am stuck. Stuck, stuck, stuck, increasingly stuck, and I don't know why. I have things for the characters to do (they're in the midst of a high-speed escape at this very moment), I've wedged in the orphaned bit in the best place for it to be, I know roughly where things are headed next... and it just won't go.

I am now going to go out and shovel expletive-deleted snow, in hopes that doing something physical will give my back-brain the leeway it needs to sort this out.
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
Historically, February has been a bad month for me.

old-mission stories: 86
Haley novel: 6496
Total new words in February: 6582

Queries sent: 5 (and I've lost count of how many potentials researched & crossed off)

Take that, February slump!


Also sent off another short story, and signed the contract (happy dance!) for my first short-story sale.


I shifted the inertia on the Haley novel, and it's been sputtering along decently since. I kind of feel like I've been burning the writing candle in the middle with a blowtorch, but also that it's been going in fits and starts, so I did a little analysis. Turns out that both are sort of right. I wrote on 15 days for a total of 18 sessions (a few two-session days in there), with an average of ~361 words per session. Which is about average for me; the only oddity may be that the days were clumped together a bit more than usual.

Part of all that, I'll admit, was a drive to not have my word-count suck this February, which, hey, hail to that. Part of it was that, having moved the big end-of-book reveal to the middle-third and decided to use that plot twist that I'd set aside & wasn't sure about, my characters now have something to do, which always helps make the words come tumbling out. Opposite that was the fact that I kept writing headlong and getting distracted by clever, exciting plot things, and forgetting to put in the important character thing, which then didn't fit even though I'd started the scene specifically for it. I finally recognized that I needed to step back and let the latest scene percolate for a bit. It's still sludging around in my head, and may not ever be what I originally envisioned it to be, but I should be able to make it work.

I think it's an important development for a writer to learn to recognize the difference between slacking off and needing to let the back-brain chew on something for a bit.


But now, onward to March. Another 5000 words and a query every seven days. Forward momentum, and forward is thataway.
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
original short fiction: 1542
Haley novel: 3638
Total new words in January: 5180

Queries sent: 4

Quotas met!

I apparently spoke too soon about the Haley novel having inertia on its side. I took a little break around Christmas, fair enough, and my alpha reader had not one but two chapters in hand, and there was all that snow shoveling... and suddenly a few weeks had gone by, and a break was threatening to turn into a block. I'd love to blame part of it on the wait for feedback, but while my alpha-reader was definitely not flying at top speed, I knew perfectly well what the next chapter was going to be and wasn't anticipating her coming back with any major alterations (as, in the event, she did not). So nope, this one's all on me.

I tried a little prompt-fic to get the writing muscles limbered up again, and after a few false starts it did the trick nicely. I even got quite a good story out of it; in fact, it's off to a major market right now. And then it was a matter of grabbing myself by the scruff of my neck and throwing myself at the next chapter, and while it never quite got easier, it at least got less hard. I was pushing for word-count right up until the end of the month, but it got done. What I'm fondly referring to as "the giant info-dump conversation chapter" is at the de-bracketing point, and I even figured out (or found; back-brain, did you set that up on purpose?) a reason for the thing I need to not happen until the next chapter to not happen until the next chapter. ;-)

For February: same again; 5000 words, query every seven days. Forward momentum.
lizvogel: Run and find out, with cute kitten. (Run and Find Out)
Have been working on titles for the novel-in-progress, and managed to winnow the list down to five current contenders. None of these has a heavenly choir backing it in my head, but by the standard of "Would I be okay with seeing it on a bookstore shelf under that name?", they're all good. Now it just remains to pick one.

Want to play along at home? Look these over and consider, if you saw them in the mystery/thriller/suspense section of the bookstore, whether they would entice you to pick up the book and read the back cover, or maybe flip through a page or two. Rank them 1-5 accordingly.

     Money and Prizes
     Truth From Lies
     Shadow Truths
     Private Truths
     Play To Win


For extra credit, pick your favorite and tell me about the story it represents.


(No, I don't guarantee that I will use any of these, let alone the winner; this ain't a democracy. But I don't guarantee I won't, either. And if you think you have a better suggestion, by all means, share!)

lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
Haley novel: 6231
Total new words in December: 6231

Target achieved, and then some. Pleasingly, I topped 5000 on the 19th of the month, once again by mostly steady plodding with a few big bursts as the inspiration took me. That's the way to do it, brain.

Chapter 10 is now with the alpha reader -- which is a huge relief, as it means she now knows the Other Big Spoiler that I've been biting my tongue on for months. I'm once again at a point of having to figure out what happens next, but the basic parameters are defined by previous events, so it's just a matter of picking the most entertaining details. ;-) And the novel as a whole has topped 55,000 words, which means I'm beginning to get that lovely feeling of inertia being on my side.

Queries: Did the agent-gathering on the 7th, and somehow managed not to do anything else. Well, I did look into some agents, but got stymied by running across UK agents, with the corresponding different requirements and preference for snail-mail. (Postage for 3 chapters to the UK? I've got to think a little longer about whether I'm excited enough about an agent for that. And with the also-corresponding tendency to less social-media presence, it's harder to judge that.) Oh well, nobody really reads queries over the holidays anyway. Right?


For January: more of the same. 5000 words; one query sent (or two agents crossed off) every seven days. Submit short stories as feasible.

Happy New Year

Wednesday, January 1st, 2014 08:30 pm
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
Yep, calendar's turned again.

2013 was a pretty good year, all told. There were some rough spots, sure, but 2013 did not drop any major bombs on me in real-life terms. The cats are well. I tried some new things (construction contract, running), and generally they were good. I started getting back into the swing of DIY and other projects; nowhere near up to my old endurance levels, but a marked improvement.

And the writing's been going well. I won the ISFiC Writers Contest, which marks the first public recognition my writing has garnered. I got the much-stalled Haley novel moving again, with good prospects for getting it finished this time. I've been making progress on the wordcount and querying goals, and I've submitted some stories. Oh, yeah, and I finished a novel! I nearly forgot about ...And The Kitchen Sink; a year is a long time, y'know?

So yeah, all things considered it was a pretty good year. I could do with some more along those lines.

For 2014, I intend to finish the Haley novel. Between novels, or at other lag times, I should remember that prompt fic is a good thing. And other than that, keep on with the wordcounts, the querying, and the submitting.

Keep trying things. Keep writing. Keep learning.
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
original short fiction: 292
Haley novel: 4963
Total new words in November: 5255

Whew! Would have been nice if most of that hadn't been in the last week, but there was this thing about having to throw out almost a thousand words because I revamped the plot again. I've a post half-written about that; suffice for now to say that that explains both the end-of-month push and the fact that the writing was dragging so very badly before then.

Queries: Whiffed the seven-day deadline more often than not, but it all got done before the month was over, so good enough. Crossed off five and queried two.


December's goals: 5000 words and a query every seven days, as before. I shouldn't need slack on the word-count, and besides, I think the novel is finally picking up. Possibility of an exception on the queries if too many agents are closed for the holidays, but I should be able to find four.
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
So having figured out that I was trudging up the wrong path, and therefore scrapping what there was of Chapter 9 so far, I figured that if I could just write 500 words a day for the rest of the month, I could still make quota, or at least come pretty close. The first day went well; the second day went really well, and soon I was... back to the word-count I'd been at a few days previously, before the scrape-and-restart. (Yay?) And yesterday wasn't bad, though by the time I hit 430 words my brain was wrung so dry my frontal lobe was cramping.

As a sign that I'm on the right track, yesterday evening I realized that I didn't know what the next scene was. Two minutes later, I did. (Yay!)

(I also realized that in taking the stuff out of the previous chapter that my main character could only know if she'd read the script, I'd also taken out something that really did need to be there. Shuffled around a couple paragraphs and tucked the small-but-key info back in, and I think it flows better now anyway. So nice catch there, brain.)

Today my brain wants to play hooky. This is why the 500/day plan was a shaky one; it's not the 500, it's the every day. I really did need to do some research for the next bit (location scouting-by-proxy, also an audio interview to get a certain character's voice right), but my brain is entirely too happy about having the excuse. I may have to speak sternly to it later.
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
At least now I know why the writing's been going so poorly lately; I was totally jumping the gun on the latest plot development. (Red herrings, how I hate you.) It's nice of my subconscious to stop me before I'd gone too far down the wrong path, but it really could just send a freakin' memo.

The other problem is that I've been so focused on what the antagonist knows / is up to that I lost sight of what my main character knows -- and doesn't know. It's good to consider what's going on off-stage, but not to the exclusion of what's under the spotlight.
lizvogel: What is this work of which you speak? (Cat on briefcase.) (Work)
Haley novel: 5106
Total new words in October: 5106

Target achieved! And thanks to being up all night last night, both chapters 7 & 8 are de-bracketed, and can be handed off to my alpha reader so she can tell me if I'm even remotely on the right track.

(Actually, only part of "all night" can be blamed on Haley. The rest was due to a very cute cat who curled up next to me and purred for petting. All night. There was a near-storm, and he seemed to want me close for reassurance, and he never does that. So yeah, no way was I leaving that.)

No big pushes to hit quota, just nice steady plodding, a little front-loaded toward the beginning of the month. Which is the way it's supposed to work.

Queries: Sent one or crossed off two every seven days, for a total of 3 queries sent this month.

That's all goals met. Go, me!


November's goals:

I'm not doing NaNo, but I was considering doing a NaNo-style push to get the Haley novel, if not done, at least a lot closer. However, given the way things have been going, I think I'm better off sticking to my slow-and-steady approach. Not that I'd mind if half a dozen chapters fell down over the next 30 days, but my official quota is still 5000 words.

The every-seven-days thing worked really well, so same again: one agent researched & queried or two researched & crossed off, accountable on the 7th, 14th, 21st, and 28th, working ahead permitted.

Onward!
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
So I've been working on this scene that I only created so that I would have a place to put a cool bit of characterization. But I've been concentrating so hard on making the scene work plot-wise that I totally forgot about the cool characterization bit, and now it doesn't fit anymore. :-(

Oh, well. That particular characterization stuff would be better elsewhere anyway; it's a bit too early for these two characters to be having a heart-to-heart, even an antagonistic one. I've no idea what the set-up scene that it eventually will fit in will be like, but it's hardly the first time I'll figure something out when I get there.

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