Lexifabricographer For when the right word just won’t do…

June 25, 2015

Progress report – Little to no progress to report

Filed under: geekery,wordsmithery — Tags: , , , , — lexifab @ 1:27 pm

In a shameless attempt to make sure that the entire month of June doesn’t pass without a blog entry, I will crank out a short progress report which only lightly touches on the status of the novel manuscript.

Because reasons, that’s why.

Status of the novel manuscript – It’s still going, albeit slowly. I’ve stalled a bit at the 50,000 word mark, having reached the point where the decision not to do any serious worldbuilding before I started has run aground on the lack of world. Er, so to speak. The external world, being little-defined, is exerting a sad lack of pressure on my isolated team of characters, which means I’m filling out an awful lot of word count with exposition and somewhat artificial interpersonal conflict. I have a suspicion that whole chapters in this area may disappear in the editing process. But not until after I finish the draft, dammit!

Short stories – Out of frustration with the slow progress on the novel, I’ve gone back to a couple of short stories to finish them off. “Burn the Future”, my “Hogwarts versus Aliens” story (not my description, but embarrassingly apt when someone proposed it) is now done and off on submission. “Unacceptable Losses” (aka “Golems versus Werewolves”, which *is* my shorthand description) was part-written in March when I dropped everything to start work on the novel. It has about another 1000 words left to be written, so I figured I would just knock them off as fast as possible so I can get to editing the piece.

Rejectomancy – So with the submission of BtF yesterday, I’m up to 31 submissions for the year with zero (I counted twice) acceptances. Ho hum. A couple of the pieces are on second readings at their respective venues, so they may well be in with a chance. And I have had some very encouraging “Good but not right for us” – type rejection letters, which is better than nothing.

One piece which has now gone out 21 times altogether is pretty much on its last possible sub, in that I’ve really just run out of markets to try to sell a 9000-word fantasy story to.  If it gets rejected again, which I’m expecting, I’ll reluctantly retire it and plonk it up here so everyone can point and laugh and wonder what got into me. Or I’ll add another seventy thousand words to it and convert it to a novel, maybe.

 

And in other news, I saw Inside Out, the new Pixar movie yesterday, about which I have two observations:

1) I reckon I learned more about neurosychology in that ninety minutes than I got in an entire year of first-year Psych at uni; and

2) I do a lot of quiet sobbing in Pixar movies.

It’s good. You should go sob – I mean, see it.

April 12, 2015

Progress report – The streak is dead. Long live the streak.

Filed under: fitter/happier,wordsmithery — Tags: , , — lexifab @ 12:12 pm

My writing streak is broken. I didn’t write a word over the Easter long weekend.

I don’t regret that one bit. I had a lovely relaxing weekend in the company of good friends and loud children, eating ridiculously delicious food and playing games. I finished reading a book that I liked and admired (Andrea K Höst’s The Pyramids of London – review incoming).

Then on Wednesday I had my very first ever migraine, which was – well, let’s just say that I know a few chronic migraine sufferers and I have a newfound respect for their ability to function at all. It’s five days after my attack and I still feel like warmed-over garbage.

However, that’s by the wayside (I hope). It seems a good time to review where I’m at with the novel, now that I’ve completed a distinct block of work.

Up until the 2nd of April, the A Flash of Black Wings manuscript was sitting on 31500 words or so. I’ve managed another couple of quick sessions since then that have dragged it up to nearly 33K. The writing streak that produced that wordcount took place over 43 days, at an average of 730-odd words per day.

I’m fairly satisfied with that as an overall result, although I am conscious that I can easily produce about 400 words in a half-hour block, which points to the fact that I am not exactly putting in stellar hours to get the project finished. I try not to beat myself up about the numbers, but the time could definitely stand to do some work.

What have I learned so far?

1) Working from a loose outline definitely helps to improve my productivity. Even though I am continuously stopping to think about how the characters should respond to situations, to make up some new bit of setting detail to dress a scene and to craft halfway decent dialogue, it helps to know where I have to start and end with a chapter.

2) Having an outline is no protection against meandering. I still write a lot of unnecessary fluff. In the middle of scenes I have often found, as mentioned above, that I need to make up some detail in order to give a scene a sense of place or to address some plot point or give context to a line of dialogue. I usually respond to this by writing a paragraph or two of info-dump setting material that has no useful function in the scene I’m writing. It’s stuff that’s necessary for me to understand my own world and characters, but it drags the hell out of the scene in play. In the editing phase I’m going to be needing to lift a lot of chunks of text like this out and either discard them or find a more appropriate home for them. I guess I could address a lot of this by doing better planning up front, but that’s a lesson for the next book, not this one.

3) Having an outline is no protection against rampant imagination. One of the big complaints you hear a lot from born pantsers (like me) is that writing the whole story out ahead of time kills the creative process. That knowing where the story is going and how it will end takes all the fun out of the journey. That was one of the things I was quietly experimenting with on this project – whether working from a detailed outline would leave me feeling bored or uninspired.

It turns out that during the writing process an entire new plot thread has emerged which completely changes the context of the characters and the situation. This plot thread was not in any way a part of the original outline. It just came out as part of giving a minor character a bit of background depth, and evolved into a core part of the situation. It’s too compelling not to use, even though it ramps up the complexity of the story in ways I haven’t quite figured out how to deal with yet.

4) Outlining is an iterative process. With the new plotline insinuating itself into my otherwise simple survival-chase romp adventure, I probably have to go back to my outline and do some more work to figure out how it all fits together now. I am tempted to run with the change in direction for a little while to see where it’s heading, but there’s a danger of chasing the new plot down a rabbit hole and having to throw away large chunks of work (which I am utterly loathe to do). So I think that for the next week my aim will be to complete the scenes I am writing now, and take a fresh pass through the outline to rework the structure and see whether it will survive the invasion of the alien plot [1].

 

[1] Plot does not contain actual aliens, depending on your definition.

February 20, 2015

Timestamp – ‘A Flash of Black Wings’ started

Filed under: news of the day,wordsmithery — Tags: , — lexifab @ 1:03 pm

Alert – Self-accountability post.

Hoo boy. I’ve jumped early. As of 11 pm yesterday, I am once again officially writing a novel. With a working title of ‘A Flash of Black Wings’ (which I very much doubt will survive the writing process), it will be a young adult-ish science fiction survival-action story of between 80 and 90 thousand words. Well, that’s what’s planned, anyway.

Saying that I’m just starting now is slightly disingenuous, mind you. I have been planning this novel in some detail for about a year now, working out the storyline chapter by chapter and doing my best to pre-plan the pacing and structure, in the hopes that I would be able to write it pretty quickly and without too many self-imposed roadblocks. How successful a planner I’ve been will be revealed in due course, I suppose.

So far I’ve written a shade under 500 words. Not very impressive for a first stint, I know, but kicking off at eleven at night is never going to lead to a power-writing session. And 500 is my target daily wordcount for the project, so at least I’m not starting off behind the pace (actually, I am, by eight words, but I’m okay with that).

If all goes to plan, I will be finished the first draft of this sucker by the end of May. In practise it is likely to take a little longer than that, as I still have those outstanding short pieces to finish writing and thence to edit. But as far as possible, I’ll be doing my novel writing first and everything else second each day.

In terms of being tedious on the blog about my process, I’ll probably mention where I’m once in a while, but I’m not planning to post daily word counts or snippets of amusing dialogue.

Right. Time to get to it.

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