Yep, that’s right! I finished another novel, in this case the second draft of my fourth. It’s not without its flaws, but good enough that I won’t feel humiliated for life by sending it out to my first readers.
Anyhow, here are the stats:
Worlds Away from Home 2.1 ms pages: 450 words: 96,212 file size: 219 KB chapters: 20 + prologue start date: 14 Jan 11 end date: 4 Mar 11
And the wordle:
Yeah, there are a few words that appeared a bit too frequently there. At least I know what to cut out in the next draft.
As for the song that best encapsulates the experience of writing it..hmm, I don’t know. The last couple chapters, I was kind of on a Metroid trip, so even though the old NES game has absolutely nothing to do with my story, I suppose I’d have to go with the Metroid title theme:
So yeah, those are the stats. As for my thoughts, here goes:
This draft was tough, but a lot more fun to write than the rough draft. Most of the struggle happened with the outline, which took about three or four weeks to actually come together, which is unusual for me.
I did a complete read through back in the first week of December, putting everything else on hold just to write the revision notes, and ended up following almost none of it. However, it wasn’t a complete loss, because outlining it helped me to cut out a bunch of useless filler and dead-end subplots.
I tend to do a lot of shotgun writing on my rough drafts, which means I spew out all my ideas in every which direction, going off on useless tangents and failing to properly foreshadow the major central conflicts.
However, by writing this way, I often discover things that I never could have foreseen from the outset. So long as I’m careful to outline each successive draft and cut out all the filler crap (even the crap that I love), it usually works out in the end.
This draft is somewhere on the crappier side of rough draft vs. finished, polished product, but it’s definitely better than the first one. If the third draft is this much better than the second, I’m optimistic that I’ll have this thing polished and ready to send out before the end of the year.
But before then, I need the help that only a few dozen pairs of eyes besides my own can give. That, and a few months to sit so that I can come back to it with new eyes.
If I know you IRL and you’re interested in being a first reader, please contact me. I’m especially looking for male readers, since the target audience is probably more male than female, but I’m open to pretty much anyone who enjoys reading science fiction.
So anyways, enough of that. On to the next project!
That’s right; the fifth draft of Genesis Earth is complete. It was a quick, easy edit, but there were quite a few problems with the last draft, mostly having to do with the physics and timing/distances.
Anyway, here are the stats:
ms pages: 335 words: 71,500 file size: 164 KB chapters: 16, prologue & epilogue start date: 2 Nov 2010 end date: 20 Nov 2010
And the wordle:
I used to describe this novel as a “hard sf romance,” but after this last revision I can see that it’s not hard sf at all–though the science (or pseudo-science) plays an important role, the story really is driven by the characters.
Thanks to some of my recent first readers, I also realize now that Genesis Earth is solidly YA. Based on their recommendations, I lowered the age of the protagonists to sixteen and seventeen, and made some adjustments to the query letter.
I’m not sure what this means for agent hunting, since it seems that many YA agents do YA exclusively, and while this novel is definitely YA, my other ones are much more adult (at least in terms of content and character).
Anyway, the song that was playing when I finished this draft was The Mummer’s Dance by Loreena McKennit, one of the songs from the soundtrack that Charlie put together a couple years ago. I think it’s very appropriate, especially for the last scene with the Icarian natives before the epilogue:
Finally, I thought you guys might want to see the “map” of the Icarian star system that I drew out on the whiteboard on my bedroom wall. Man, you have no idea how much I’ve been geeking out to this in the past few days. It’s a map…of a star system!
…and not a moment too soon. I leave for the Salt Lake airport in eight hours, to try and sell this ugly beast masterpiece at World Fantasy. Let’s hope I can find a few editors/agents who are willing to take a look at the manuscript!
Here are the stats:
Mercenary Savior 4.0
words: 123,045 pages: 620 chapters: 28 + prologue file size: 288.1 KB start date: 24 August 2010 end date: 27 October 2010
And the wordsplash:
The most influential song on my writing for this draft would probably be the theme from Terminator 1:
Man, why didn’t I grow up in the Eighties? Oh, wait…
I’d write more, but I have to pack for tomorrow. Good night!
Man, it’s been forever since I’ve posted something. I’d blog more often, but I think you guys would get bored pretty quick if all I did was tell you how the writing went each day. Don’t be fooled; the writing process isn’t NEARLY as interesting as the stuff we write (unless you’re writing amateur fanfic…just kidding!).
So anyways, life is extremely busy these days. Between my temp job at a warehouse, Leading Edge, Institute, church, Quark, and finishing the revision of Mercenary Savior, I feel incredibly crunched for time. I’ve been pulling about 1k to 3k words per day, but last week was horrendously unproductive and I’ve got to really push hard to finish this beast in time for World Fantasy.
But it’s going to happen–that’s for sure. I’ll finish my job at the end of this week, and with the extra free time I’m sure I’ll be able to finish it in time. I passed the 100k word mark last night, and it looks like this draft is going to be around 120k to 125k. Still a little long for a science fiction novel, but not too long (I hope).
As I get closer to the end, I’ve noticed that I tend to use a shotgun approach in resolving the conflicts in my rough drafts. Instead of following each arc through in a focused, logical manner, the last few chapters of my drafts tend to go all over the place, trying halfheartedly to resolve everything at once.
The bad thing about this is that the last half of the book requires a lot more work to revise. The good part, however, is that I can cut off a ton of fat at the tail end, significantly shortening the final wordcount. It’s good to be able to manipulate that number late in the game.
As far as my plans for November, if I do participate in nanowrimo, it’s going to be with a serious project that I was already planning on doing, not something wild and spontaneous. I don’t think taking the time off to write something I know will never be published is going to help me as a writer.
At the same time, however, it only takes about 1.5k to 2k per day for 30 days to complete nanowrimo, and that’s about the rate that I’m writing right now (a little less, actually). With World Fantasy smack at the end of October, I probably won’t start anything new until November 1st. So even though I’m not taking time off from my serious stuff to do it, I probably will participate in nanowrimo this year.
As far as other stuff going on in November, I am very much looking forward to seeing my sister in Houston over Thanksgiving weekend. Since I don’t know if I can find a job that will give me that week off, and since I’m already in a pretty good financial place with the money from this last job, I think I’ll take most of the month off to focus on my writing, rather than look for full-time work.
However, I have been thinking a lot about becoming a freelance translator. One thing I’ve learned from working in a warehouse (and I’ll blog more about this at the end of the week) is that I hate not using the stuff I learned in college. My original plan when I chose to major in Mideast studies was to use Arabic to find a regular job until the writing took off, and so far I haven’t done that.
Besides, I REALLY want to go back to the Middle East someday. If I can improve my Arabic to the point where I feel I can get along better than the average American student, I might just move over there for a year or two (or five or ten…).
Anyhow, I’ve got a ton of stuff to do (including writing–I want to hit at least 3k today), so that’s all for now. See ya!
Sixty six percent! I’ve officially passed the two thirds mark in the fourth revision for Mercenary Savior–and not a moment too soon. With only a week and a half until World Fantasy 2010, it’s crunch time. I’ll probably quit my temp job a week early in order to devote the last few days of the month to finishing it.
As I’ve been working on Mercenary Savior, though, a fascinating idea for a sequel has been stewing in my head. It was sparked by an online conversation with one of my first readers:
Reader: I was never fully convinced that James felt he had closure Me: I see Reader: but I was satisfied with the thought that he would get it sometime after the story ends
he’s still young, so he’s still maturing
even at the close of the novel Me: yeah
It’s true; James does have a lot of room to grow and mature after the events of Mercenary Savior. In that book, his character growth arc (without giving away spoilers) is about him learning to accept change and stop running from adulthood.
Nothing in that arc has much to do with the kind of person James grows up to be, however, or the significant other with whom he comes to share his life. In other words, there’s a whole lot of untapped potential for building James’s character and giving him a romantic interest.
The question that immediately rose to my mind was: what’s the story?
Now when it comes to sequels, I think the best ones take a long, hard look at the first installment and answer the question: therefore, what? Thus, in Star Wars IV, V, and VI (which I believe to be one of the best examples of a trilogy in any medium), the Rebels defeat the first Death Star in episode IV, but find themselves on the run in episode V because the Empire knows the location of their base. Luke uses the force to pull off a last-minute victory in episode IV, but finds in episode V that becoming a true Jedi takes a lot more discipline and self-mastery than he thought.
So I applied that principle to my own work and came up with the following overarching conflict: the Hameji occupation of Karduna is devastating the people of the Colony to the point where they collectively decide to depart en masse and establish a new community somewhere else. It’s a logical conclusion taken from the ending of Mercenary Savior; the people are well enough off to survive, but too poor and oppressed to do much of anything else.
You may not know this, but the first story I wanted to set in this fictional universe was about a group of starfaring pioneers traveling into the heart of a nebula to escape religious persecution and establish a thriving community on the fringes of settled space. That’s right–I basically wanted to set the Mormon pioneer exodus in space.
For various unrelated reasons, that never worked out, but the desire has always been there in the back of my mind. What can I say–I think that pioneers are cool, and stories about colonizing unsettled new lands just fascinate me. I’ll probably write a massive Utah pioneer epic someday.
But anyways, I started playing around with this old idea to see whether I could recycle it. Right now, I think that I can. The idea is that James becomes the leader for one of these emigrant groups, and has to see them safely through to a young planet in the heart of this nebula. They decide to fly into the nebula in order to isolate themselves from the Hameji, since the FTL tech in my universe doesn’t work within a Nebula.
And then something really crazy happened. This scene popped into my head, stronger than any other idea I’d had so far. I imagined that a group of pirates had captured the expedition and refused to let them go unless they gave the pirates three young women to keep as slaves.
Pretty standard conflict, right? But then, I thought: what if three young women of their own free will stepped forward and offered to sacrifice themselves to save the others? What would James do then?
Well, it wasn’t hard to figure that out at all. James would never let them go. He’d fight the pirates, even if it meant risking all the lives of those he’s trying to protect.
This raises some interesting questions of morality. Is it right to risk the lives of everyone in the community when three individuals have already offered to sacrifice themselves for the good of the whole? Is it right to deny someone the opportunity to give their own life to save others? Or is James just being stubborn and reckless?
At a first glance, that’s the way it looks. But then I imagined what James would say to justify himself. After what he learns from the events of Mercenary Savior, James would argue that the community needs to stick together–that in order for the whole to survive, everyone has to know with absolute certainty that no-one will be left behind. Once the leader shows that he’s willing to sign his followers over, how can any of them trust him with their lives? Under such conditions, trust breaks down and the community falls apart.
From that, a whole host of other ideas started gradually coming to mind. How does this event tie into James’s romantic interest? Does it tie in at all? What would the people’s reaction be to this decision? Coming from the background of the Colony, would they want to put the issue to a vote instead? Is it ever right to suspend democracy when facing a crisis, and if so, under what conditions?
So anyway, I won’t tell you what I have in mind, but I have a lot of really interesting ideas. It’s gotten to the point, in fact, that I may just write the sequel after I get back from World Fantasy.
In closing, let me leave with this excellent track from one of ocremix’s latest albums, a rearrangement of Donkey Kong Country 2. Believe it or not, this song could be the main theme of this novel. Listen to it and I think you’ll see why.
mss pages: 536 words: 116,219 file size: 259 KB chapters: 24 start date: 9 June 2010 end date: 16 August 2010
And here’s the wordsplash:
Also, I don’t know if this is of any significance to anyone, but this is the song that I had playing while I wrote the last scene. Thanks to Rafael for tipping me off to it.
And what are my thoughts, now that it’s finished?
1) Thank goodness it’s over. 2) Wait, it’s over? 3) Wow, the ending didn’t suck as bad as I thought it would. 4) …is it really over? Really? Like, I’m not going to wake up tomorrow and procrastinate writing all day, like I have for the past two months? 5) Huh.
Of course, it still needs a TON of work–plot holes to fill, character inconsistencies to mend, worldbuilding crap to throw in (or throw out), climaxes to resolve. I won’t send it out to any first readers until after I’ve done at least one major revision.
Still, there’s something satisfying about finishing a 120k word novel. Most of my misgivings about the story disappeared as I wrote the final chapters, and now I’m much more confident that I can make this thing publishable.
Eventually, that is. For now, it’s time to move on to the next big project.
Moments after finishing Worlds Away from Home, I opened the spreadsheet with my daily wordcounts and noticed that it was missing all the data from the last week. All the data. Not sure what to do, I saved Worlds Away, closed it, reopened it…and found that everything I’d written in the last week was lost.
I almost had a nervous breakdown. I had just finished the last scene, written the last sentence, brought the story to an emotionally poignant ending–and it was all gone.
I freaked out. Searched through all the temp folders, found the backup path for openoffice and searched that–it was all gone.
Not sure what to do, I plugged my flash drive into my other computer, brought up the document, and THANK GOD it was all there. Everything down to the very last line that I’d written only moments ago.
Oh man, you have no idea what I was feeling right then. I collapsed to my knees and promptly saved a two backups, one of the document, the other of everything on my flash drive.
Now I’m scared to plug my flash drive back into my desktop computer, though. What happened? Will I lose all my data again?
Maybe this will help: While I had my novel open, I plugged in another storage device to a jack next to the one my flash drive was plugged into. You know the tone that windows makes when you unplug a USB device? It made that noise twice, as if I’d just unplugged my flash drive. Later, I unplugged the second device, I think it did the same thing, but I’m not sure.
Also, when I opened up the documents I’d been working on on my other computer, I noticed that while my novel (which I’d had open prior to plugging in the second device) had its most recent save, the other documents only had the data from my save on the previous night. In other words, while everything I’d written in my novel tonight was saved, anything I’d written in anything opened after plugging in the second USB device was not saved.
Clearly, this must be a hardware problem of some sort. Perhaps something on the motherboard isn’t fully plugged in? Dang, I’ve got to fix it–I can’t afford to have another scare like this.
Sorry I haven’t posted much recently–I’ve been very busy with this novel. Expect a post sometime tomorrow about finishing it.
I’ve got half a dozen things I could blog about, but it’s 2 am and cleaning checks are tomorrow, so I think I’m going to give a quick update and go to bed.
Worlds Away from Home is doing quite well–I’m only two chapters and five scenes from the end. I’d push really hard to finish it tomorrow, but I’m still waiting on some of my alpha readers for Mercenary Savior and probably won’t start that project until after I go back to Massachusetts at the end of the month.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the seven point story structure Dan Wells talked about at LTUE 2010 (which I missed, but caught on youtube), and I’ve got a TON of ideas for Mercenary Savior now. I’m practically chomping at the bit to start analyzing this story and working out all the complex plot and character elements. That’s very good.
While chatting with one of my alpha readers for Mercenary Savior, I had an interesting idea for a direct sequel. Basically, while James’s storyline has some closure (or should, after I finish this next revision), he’s still got a lot of growing and maturing to do. My mind is already working it out…should I make that my fifth novel? Or move on to something else first? The thing about direct sequels is you can’t sell them without the first book, and if the first book doesn’t sell…
I’m applying for Redcliff Ascent; if all goes well, I’ll be participating in the November training (since September is full). At first, I was hesitant about this (since I kind of need a job now), but looking at it now, that’s probably the best time to do it. It’s after World Fantasy, which gives me time to finish Mercenary Savior, and late enough in the year that I can still finish that article for Mormon Artist. Plus, I can easily get a schedule that allows me to attend LTUE 2011. The only disadvantage is that I won’t be able to attend all of Brandon Sanderson’s English 318 classes, but that’s not such a big deal (seeing as I’ve taken the class twice already!).
Other than that, life is good. I’m going home in a week to see my parents and get my teeth done (since my mom’s health insurance covers me until my birthday in September–why pay for a checkup when you could have it for free?), and I’m definitely looking forward to that. And now that I’m almost finished with Worlds Away, I can see that it’s got potential, and that’s encouraging. Not this draft, certainly, but once I fix all the holes, it could really go somewhere.
Either way, it’s going to be nice having four novels under my belt.