Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Novel Goals Schedule

This post bears a title that would invite the disdain of Professor Strunk (the original author of Elements of Style). What am I talking about? A schedule of intermediate goals in the writing of my book, a novel? Or is the post in reference to a litany of unusual scoring shots in hockey?

Okay, I decided that I needed to schedule some intermediate goals to track the progress of the creation of the novel. I used an assortment of already established facts, such as: It was started roughly in March (or roughly started), I think a year is a reasonable goal for completion, Stephen King in On Writing recommends a 6 week hiatus from even looking again at a manuscript once the first draft is complete, January 1st would be a good time to start the first rewrite, 6 weeks earlier is my birthday, the 1st draft is approximately 20% complete already, etc.

So, with no more boring further ado, here is the Schedule of Goals put boldly forth in front of God, Cisco servers and everybody (Location are where I expect the main action to be at that time, assuming that the characters don't decide to go off somewhere else instead):

15July07: St Louis

15Aug07: New Orleans

15Sep07: Panama

15Oct07: San Francisco

13Nov07: TBA

31Dec07: Break is over

01Jan08: First rewrite starts

15Feb08: First rewrite complete, manuscripts out to family and friends

23Feb08: Break is over, read entire book aloud to self (SK recommendation)

01Mar08: Final rewrite and polish begins

31Mar08: Novel is finished

01Apr08: Query letters hit the USPS and email servers. An auspicious date.

There it is, we'll see how well I track the timeline. The well worn joke is that I have never completed a project for myself on time - remodel the kitchen, build a new fenceline, put in an RV building, etc and finished it on the original timeline. SFF argues that they are never actually finished, strictly speaking.

The reason for the published timeline is a major reason this blog exists - to put it out there for anyone to see and put pressure on myself to perform. Its like talking smack before a basketball game or darts match - it puts on self applied pressure and raises the stakes somewhat. I'm not doing this to put bread on the table; every little bit of motivation helps.

First Blog Mistake - Of Which I'm Aware

Time for some embarassment: Stephen King's book on writing is actually titled "On Writing - A Memoir of the Craft" and should properly be briefly referred to as "On Writing".

My excuse is that in the manner of books sold today the cover bears the well-known writer's name in huge font size "STEPHEN KING" then, in this case, there is clever kind of sideways script font saying "On Writing" followed by "A Memoir of the Craft" in a standard font. The book spine seems to be the deciding factor in determining the short version of the title and it states, "On Writing."

All of which is just an excuse, and there should be none for a factual error, my bad.

Monday, June 25, 2007

If You Blog & No One Clicks Is it Still Virtual Reality?

There's a question I've been wondering about. When does cyber land become the cyber void? Or is that backward - one starts out posting to a cyber void and then, maybe, if people discover the site, it becomes cyber land, part of the cyber landscape?

In any case, I know of only one person who has visited this blog, my friend the aspiring novelist, which is fine, for now.

The word count on the Secret Project is now 40,000 which is bothersome as I would estimate that I'm only perhaps 25% through the storyline as currently envisioned. Word on the street holds that 100,000 is the optimum ballpark figure for agents considering taking on a new author.

In consultation with my wife, SFF, it has been decided to just press on and let the story flow, we'll see how it turns out. Good editing in the first rewrite will doubtless prune it down some, after that we'll just have to see.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Three Books on Writing

Boy, blogging is turning out to me more of a time commitment than I had expected - and this is only the third post. If I really feel like writing I hit the novel a lick, once that burst of energy has run its course there is very little left to blog - if I want quality in the blog, which I do.

How's that for a run-on, complicated sentence? Which leads us to three books that I have recently purchased in an attempt to improve my writing on the fly. They are:

1. The Elements of Style, 4th Edition, by Strunk & White. This evidently is or should be every writer's slim little bible. Virtually everyone who talks about improving their writing enthusiastically endorses this book. Originally published in 1918.

2. A Memoir of the Craft, by Stephen King. Yes, Stephen King the best selling novelist. I bought this on the basis of recommendation on writing threads and agent blogs. "Combines autobiography and admonition, inspiration and instruction. It's an enjoyable mix." - The Washington Post Book World

3. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, How to Edit Yourself Into Print, Second Edition, by Brown and King. In an amateurish, best-effort way I've edited two manuscripts for a buddy of mine. Perhaps this will improve my effort for him as well as me should my rough draft ever get finished and require editing.

I've read Elements of Style and am halfway through A Memoir of the Craft. After reading each book I will re-read and highlight, which is an effective way for me to study something. My plan for the blog, for now, is to discuss some of the highlights from each.

Right now, though, I'm in a hotel in Dallas and its lights-out time.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

A Plug for My Friend's Book

I've cut and pasted my review of my friend's book at Amazon:

In the mid 90's my buddy, a Navy fighter pilot, was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. While the rest of us continued with our flying careers whether military or airline, my friend faced the bitter reality of a long downhill fight against in incurable debilitating disease. He was medically retired from the Navy, moved back home to Iowa, got a job as a financial analyst and built a wheelchair-friendly house. He has been "lucky" in the course of his MS in that his has been a slower than average progression of the disease - he can still walk, for example, albeit with difficulty. Although MS is still incurable research continues and he recently went through an experimental high risk stem cell transplant procedure that, it is hoped, may halt further progression of the disease.

This book is about his experiences in learning the diagnosis, sharing it with his family, and dealing with a future that not only involves no more flying, but will likely include a complete loss of personal mobility and independence. It is written absolutely from the heart in the hope that other MS sufferers, and indeed those with similar afflictions, may learn some of the lessons that he has.

He sent me one of the first copies, I read it and immediately sent an email recommending it to virtually everyone on my email list. What came back was rather surprising - I submit that you would be astonished at the number of friends and family that you have who either have someone in their life with MS or know someone who does. Many of these people on my list have ordered the book and ALL of them have been very impressed by it.

I recommend this to anyone with MS or a similar debilitating disease, as well as to their family and friends. It comes from someone who has been there and is living that.

Further: My friend has pledged that all profits from the book will go towards Multiple Sclerosis research.

At Amazon: The Gift

I added this to the blog because we just got a phone call from a friend who has a friend with MS and had ordered the book on my recommendation. After the book had arrived but before they had even taken it out of the Amazon box a second friend of their's called to tell them she had just been diagnosed with MS. They sent her "The Gift" before they even had read it. This second friend, a cancer survivor, called after reading it to express her heartfelt thanks for the book and expressed the hope that she might get to meet my friend, the author, when he next visits us.

Have you, a family member or friend been touched my MS? "The Gift" may be a big help for all concerned. ALL profits will go to MS research.

When It Started

I just went back and looked at the creation dates of my first files for the novel. The outline was created July 3, 2006. Immediately leaping into full press mode, the actual first words of the book itself were committed to 1's and 0's on February 27, 2007. I wouldn't want to rush into anythng.

The problem was commitment: I just couldn't bring myself to declare to myself and the world that I was going to write a book. I hate leaving tasks unfinished and this would be a big unfinished task if I quit before completion.

Another problem was/is the time it's going to take. I couldn't commit the hours without giving something else up; it's not like I had hours every day where I was staring at walls - or staring at TV or other time wasters either. The biggest optional time usage before the book was playing online poker. I was doing very well, and giving up the money would be a drag, but it was the only way to free up enough time on an ongoing basis.

So....no online poker until the book is done, that's the vow.

Intermediate goal? First draft done by Christmas. Which Christmas remains to be seen.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night - And the Blog Began

I'm writing a novel. That's hardly something to crow about. Finishing a novel - now that's something to cluck about, anyway, rather like laying an egg, perhaps. Getting one's novel published - there's something worth leaping up to the top of the chickenhouse and crowing over. We'll see if I end up clucking, crowing, or quietly wandering off.

Its a project I've toyed with for years, which is certainly not something that sets one apart from the crowd. Lot's of people think about climbing Everest - but how many accomplish it or even give it a good try? Its time to fish or cut bait, though, I'm middle aged and I'd best let loose what creativity I have left before too many more brain cells fade away.

What are my qualifications? They're not overwhelming. I write well, most everyone agrees on that, yes, especially my Mom. My Christmas letters are well received. I've had a few magazine articles published. Not the New Yorker, but nonetheless they paid me and you've probably heard of the periodicals. I've written a few short stories that my wife liked. That's it.

Motivation? That's been hard to come by. A very good friend of mine has written two, both are as of yet unpublished. I've assisted with some editing, he's assisted me by reading my short stories and telling me to get off my ass and write a book. I started a serial killer crime drama a few years ago, got to about 25,000 words, showed it to my wife and she hated it. That aborted Sercet Project One (SPI).

I learned lessons from SPI: don't just aim for a commercial market, write a story that you want to read yourself, write something your wife can support.

I started Secret Project 2 (SP2) a few months ago, the novel that is the subject of this blog. I have a story I like, one that I'm interested in, and some characters that are opening their eyes and moving around on their own. 30,000 words and my wife likes it so far.

Why the blog? Partly its to make a public statement in front of the world (" I'm going to write a novel "), to apply pressure to myself, partly to discuss novel writing/querying/agents/publishing as each of those become factors, and partly to function as a journal of the process.

Well see how it goes and whether I stick with the project, the blog, both or neither.