Writing Journal 2.25.2018: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ (but I did have something of a breakthrough…)

Well, I thought I cratered out last month, but this probably tops it.

+341 words written.

Days writing: 1 out of 7.

Days revising:1 out of 7 for three total hours.

Daily writing goals met (500+ words or 30 minutes of revisions): 1  out of 7 days.

Now, my explanation.

As I mentioned previously, I was coming across a major scene – maybe one of the three biggest scenes in my book, a final confrontation between my MC and the powers that be at his college that serve as his kiss-off to his old life. Everyone, I have been stuck with a block on this.  I want it to be massive, a demonstration that he is becoming the independent, dominating personality that has been hinted at throughout the novel. I still need to keep remembering what Ernest said about first drafts (and what I often tell my students in less vulgar terms). I just need to get it on the page and move on to the revising process.

But I did come across a turning point in my plans for the book. Before, I told about the tale of me deciding on using a fictional setting (based in part on other towns/colleges) for my Texas-based setting. This weekend, as I considered all of the possible trademarking issues inherent in using a real club as a setting for the other part of this novel, I realized that I had to undertake a similar transformation for my MC’s club. That kicked off a long day of research, consulting with writers online, reviewing Wikipedia and tourism guides to get things set up. It was a wild process, and one I think is worthy of its own post (about world-building, asking how deep to go into it, and how much I do that with my own work).

So, that’s where I’m at now. I’m glad I finally posted something midweek last week; I want to try and make that two in a row this week. And, also, write at least a little more and get closer to reaching my goal of completing this first draft by the end of next month.

Will I make it? I do think I will.

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On Revising (Part 1)

At this moment, I’m a special education teacher. It’s something that I’ve really enjoyed doing, a new step in my education career. It may be the field that I end up teaching in for the rest of my professional life.

However, I got started as a language arts teacher, at the secondary level. I also taught composition at the college level. There was one, bright, shining moment where I had fantasies of working as a full-time college professor, spending my days grading papers at the local coffee shop while tooling around on a new writing project. However, opportunities for full-time work, even at the community college level, were rare or non-existent, and the economics of adjunct college teaching make it the educational career equivalent of entry-level fast food work.

I do still teach writing – not usually full-time, but in short bursts to those kids I have writing goals with, and the occasional college class, although the last time I did that was a year and a half ago. I’m still open to taking on the occasional job, but I don’t see myself doing it for a career anymore.

During the time that I taught in the college environment, I always wanted to lay out what the writing process looked like, in a similar manner that Vince Lombardi would explain to his players what a football was before beginning practice. As part of that, I’d include a graphic in my PowerPoint to the class where I would illustrate that writing process to the class. It looked like… well, it looked much like what you see as the featured image for this post.

So, kids… :). That writing process involves:

  1. Prewrite – coming up with your idea and making initial plans for what it will look like.
  2. Draft – putting the first version of your writing down on paper/computer screen/etc.
  3. Revise – reviewing your work for possible improvements regarding its ideas, organization, or style.
  4. Edit – reviewing your work for grammatical, mechanical, or formatting errors.
  5. Publish – putting your final version of your work out for the general public to see.

For most people, those who don’t study writing carefully, steps 1 and 2 are usually the only ones they do personally, or that they have heard of. You think of something, you write it down – easy enough.

But it’s not that easy, is it? Even the diagram only hints at that complexity. For example, right after step 4, we could easily loop back to step 3 for another go-around, and then yet another. Professional novelists usually go through several revisions and edits for a single book; I’ve heard of some screenplays that see a dozen or more.

For me, both my personal experience with writing and teaching writing for the past 20-plus years has left me convinced, more than ever, that revising is the absolute key step to the writing process. It’s the engine that drives everything else in the writing process. It’s where you look at all of the drivel that you’ve dribbled onto the paper and screen and try not to recoil in horror. If drafting is taking a whole stack of 3×5 cards covered in notes, flinging them into the air, and letting them scatter across a table, revising is sorting all of those cards out and seeing how they relate to each other.

Since I’m getting closer to the revising part of my latest project, I thought I’d get into some of the things that I’ve noticed about the revising process and try to discuss some of the things I do in my own revisions. This blog post will be the start of that, but I’m not sure how long it will take for me to get through all of it. It’s kind of like these book projects that way.

Anyway, check my blog for the Revising tag and you’ll see those posts. Next one will be coming… soon. See you then.

Writing Journal 2.18.2018: It’s starting to go on

Things are… progressing? Not perfect, but picking up regardless. I am putting up consistent if low numbers. This is what I have for this week:

+1,501 words written.

Days writing: 4 out of 7.

Days revising: 1 out of 7 for 30 total minutes.

Daily writing goals met (500+ words or 30 minutes of revisions): 2 out of 7 days.

I guess as you look at it statistically, it’s pretty much stable with last week’s numbers. I still am not reaching the goals like I want, but at least I’m not headed backward.

In overall manuscript news, I am currently at 91,862 words on the first draft. As I said in previous posts, I am aiming for a maximum word count of between 90,000 and 99,999 words. I absolutely don’t want to get in a situation where my first draft goes way over 100,000 and I have to slash scenes.

This week, I finished up a critical scene where my main character has a confrontation with his grandfather about how he’s being awful to his mother.  I was worried that I wasn’t going to have enough space to get that subplot in, but I think I can manage it. I have three more scenes to do – the “kiss-off” scene where he basically quits his team and goes off to England, a press conference scene, and the last scene in the book. I think I can manage it, but we’ll have to see.

Some of that time that’s been taken up this week has been due to blogging. I am actually going to have, guaranteed (because I already finished and scheduled it) a post for Wednesday night. It’s going to be part of a series on revising, which I thought was appropriate since I will soon be getting into full-fledged revisions for the new book. Plus, I’ve got ideas for at least two other topics.

Looking forward to the working, living, and writing week.

 

Writing Journal 2.11.2018: Feeling good despite low numbers [Also, a thank you.]

It’s tough to judge exactly how well I am doing from a statistical standpoint. I just started my new system for evaluating my production. This week saw a drop in my words written, but a massive increase in revising time.

The numbers:

+980 words written.

Days writing: 4 out of 7.

Days revising: 3 out of 7 for 5 hours and 30 min.

Daily writing goals met (500+ words or 30 minutes of revisions): 3 out of 7 days.

Some notes on the numbers, then:

  1. As I said, much lower numbers for writing than for revising. The word count numbers don’t even come close to matching the count I’d have if I made writing goal of 500 words a day all week (3,500 words). However, the revising time well exceeds what I would do if I made my revising quota of 30 minutes per day all week (3 hours and 30 minutes).
  2. I had a slight increase in the number of days that I made quota.
  3. Not included in these totals – cutting an earlier version of a scene I decided to rewrite to make it fit in better with the conflicts my main character is facing. What I cut was around 750 words – frankly, a lot less than I thought it was going to be. The replacement scene is going to be bigger, I think – serving as the main kiss-off of his old life and moving on with his new one away from his home.
  4. As I said before, it’s getting closer and closer to the end. Word count numbers on this project will likely remain lower than at the beginning of it, but my revising numbers should stay strong.
  5. I’m feeling like I’ve turned a corner with this project. I’ll be happy to see a full rough draft in my hand.

 

One other thing; thanks to those of you who have visited the site and hit the follow button for me. It’s greatly appreciated, and I hope that there’s something here on the site you’d be interested in reading about. I’m also hoping to have something for people to read and buy before the year is out.

More later.

Breakthrough.

After almost a month through that stupid scene I was stuck in, I am finally out and done with it!

Or, at least, done with it in a rough draft sense.

Got a great writing session in last night. About 2 1/2 hours of revising last night, on a critical scene where my main character is essentially trying out for his new team. I managed to merge a new portion of that scene with an older scene to keep the flow going, interact with a character I think was important for the MC to interact with, and clean up any odds and ends. I even managed to add close to 400 words in the process.

Tonight will be a revising night for sure. What I have left to do is this:

1. Totally rewrite a climatic scene where my MC makes a final break with his old life to go on with his new one. The location and format of that meeting will be totally different, but his message and how he feels about it will be the same. I’ll have to cut all of that initial work, so my overall word count is going to drop for a while. That’s OK, however; more room to roam.

2. See how much space I have to add what I think would be a great subplot, but if it puts me over my 99,999-word limit, I’ll have to leave it out. (I might wait to make that decision when I get to the first revision.)

3. Write the last scene. I’m thinking this could easily be the start of a trilogy for me, so it will allude to this being just the start of adventures for my MC and his new teammates. [SPOILER ALERT] [SNEAK PEEK] You are about to see what I am picturing will be the final piece of dialogue in the book. I wrote it on my dry erase board a few months ago for motivation. I’m so looking forward to seeing these staring up from the electronic screen and the page:

Can’t wait.

Writing Journal/Random Notes 2.4.2018: Not as good as I want to be, not as good as I should be, but better than I have been

And it’s a late post tonight.

That’s not so much having to do with the Super Bowl. (I saw the beginning of the game and the second part of the fourth quarter, but that’s about it. My interest in American football has been draining away considerably this season, and it’s been the least amount I’ve probably watched in years.) It’s got more to do with family stuff and wanting to get distracted by various videos.

Oh, this is where I list the totals, right? OK. I’ve made a modification to the list to reflect that I’m now including revising time in the calculations. I will list how often I’ve revised and for how long. I will also include in the daily writing goals whether I have made either writing or revising goals – either one will count toward the total.

Thus:

+1,519 words written.

Days writing: 3 out of 7.

Days revising: 1 out of 7 for 30 total minutes.

Daily writing goals met (500+ words or 30 minutes of revising):  2 out of 7 days.

Thoughts:

  1. The subtitle to this post pretty much summarized my thoughts on the word count. It is a better performance than last week, but since last week was my worst writing performance since starting this thing, I’m not jumping up and cheering.
  2. I’m almost through this scene of death 😉 I talked about before, but not quite. Maybe one good day of meeting my writing quota and I should be done with it. After that, either writing or revising should go better (until I get into another tricky scene, ha ha).
  3. I am officially past the 90,000-word mark on the rough draft. As I mentioned before, I am shooting for a 95,000-99,999-word rough draft and keeping all further revisions under the 100,000-word mark for both artistic and commercial reasons.
  4. Right now, my expectations are that I finish this rough draft and begin my first full revision of it by March 30, my birthday. I think that is a very doable goal..

OK. A few random notes:

  1. Usually I’m not a share-happy or cross-posting person on this page. Almost everything on the WordPress page is directly my ramblings. However, this was an exception because I’m all in favor of helping out my local community of writers – in this case, Writers On The Avenue, based in my hometown of Muscatine. Check them out sometime.
  2. I really need to start using Freedom more and not be a wuss about it.
  3. I need to put out another blog soon, about revising.
  4. I’ll also continue to publish some old poems or writings occasionally as well. I’m thinking of looking over what I saved from an old blog and see if any of it might fit here.
  5. This summer is when I’ll be doing a lot to get my book (Working title: The Holy Fool) published, whether by a regular publisher or by myself.
  6. Random thought: would A Fool’s Errand be a better title? Tell me what you think.
  7. I need to get some sleep.
  8. More later.

WOTA wants your poems!

Don’t usually do this, but I wanted to help out my local writing group. 🙂

Writers on the Avenue

Writers on the Avenue is holding a poetry contest for residents of Muscatine and adjacent counties, with prizes available in three categories: adult, teen (13-17), and youth (12 and under). The first prize in the adult category is $25. The deadline for submission is March 30, 2018.

Send 5 poems or up to 5 pages of unpublished work along with a cover sheet listing your name, mailing address, phone number, email address, category, and titles or first line(s) of poems to this email address, or mail to WOTA Poetry Contest, 2614 Imperial Oaks Drive, Muscatine, IA 52761. There is no entry fee.

All entries will be considered for publication in a winners’ anthology tentatively titled  From River to River. Complete contest rules are listed below.

If you are not a resident eligible for the contest, but would still like to submit your work for consideration for the anthology, or…

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