Friday, December 21, 2007

Awaiting SFF's Final Chunk Review

My wife, SFF, is beside me reading the final chunk of the first draft. She probably won't finish it today, but I'm all ears to hear what she has to say about the ending.

I also have a whole list of questions to ask her about the last chunk, the characters, and the manuscript as a whole.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

No Writing Allowed

My overall plan calls for a writing hiatus after completing the first draft. Stephen King, in his book On Writing, recommends a six week interval between the first draft and beginning the first rewrite. Accordingly, I'm planning to start the rewrite after the new year. There is plenty to do in the meantime - researching facts, thinking about the characters, writing descriptions of them, getting SFF's feedback and digesting it, converting the file from AppleWorks to Pages, all kinds of things.

That said, I'm having a hard time not jumping right into the edit. There's a lot to be done and I think it will be much, much better when its done. Its a good thing we're going down to California for our big family Christmas get together or I might not be able to wait that long.

And, yes, if I wait until the first it will only be a two week hiatus, but that's about as long as I think I can wait.

Monday, December 17, 2007

First Draft Complete

The first draft is complete. The momentus event actually occurred yesterday in the Denver airport while on a maintenance delay. I wrote the final sentence, typed the final period, and looked up, not quite sure for a moment where I was.

After deleting 13,000 words worth of accumulated notes, ideas, reminders and outlines that had accumulated under the text itself, the manuscript clocks in at 206,000 words. I've been really hoping that it will finalize at under 200k, so with the rough at 206k it should be doable.

The 5th and last Chunk has been printed and is setting at SFF's place at the kitchen table.

While I'm happy with what I've accomplished by completing an entire first draft, I'm not thinking or claiming that I've "written a book". I won't feel that I have until I'm finished with rewrite number X and I can't think of anything else I could do to make it better. Then I'll consider that I've written a book, and whether it gets published or not won't change the fact.

As it exists now I'd be embarrassed to have anyone but SFF read it. I've peeked back at the first few pages and not been impressed with myself. I take solace from thinking that I must have gotten better over the 200k since then, I've been writing in flows with little on screen review, I've done virtually no rewriting yet, I know the characters a ton better, etc.

We'll have to see how the rewrites go. I told SFF today that it may never be good enough even to send out to beta readers (family and friend). I wouldn't send it to them now. I see a complete first rewrite, printing the whole shebang for SFF to read start to finish, getting her input, taking a deep breath and plunging into the second rewrite, and when that is finished sending it out to beta readers. It may never be good enough for that. If not, I guess I stop there - but if its the best I could make it I would at least feel that I'd written a book.

For now, though, all that's in the future and I've finished the first draft.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Even Closer

Got in a good session this morning, Saturday, then it was getting a Christmas tree and other stuff this afternoon.

I'm halfway through the final chapter, things are moving fast, I'm liking how its going.

One more good session and the first draft is done.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Soooo Close....... the end of the book, the end of the first draft I mean.

I emailed my writing buddy last night and told him that today I would start the final chapter. That wasn't quite correct, there's a lot of ground yet to cover with a natural chapter break in the middle, so this morning I started the next-to-last chapter. Its going very well, the words are flowing fast, I should finish it tonight and, if I get a lot of time to write tomorrow, the last chapter will be done.

Wow. "The last chapter will be done"

For the first draft. Yes, just the first draft.

Even so, its been nine months of writing and approximately 215,000 words (yikes!) to get to this point. I may raise a few glasses in mild celebration tomorrow night, should I in fact get to type the words "The End".

If so, I have another immediate, pressing writing assignment to complete: The Family Christmas Letter. Family and friends, if I ever complete the book to the point of sending you the manuscript, and if you ever have enough interest to peruse this blog which documents its progress, realize how hard it was to resist putting in an announcement of the Secret Project into the Christmas Letter.

Here's hoping that Christmas Letter 2008 will announce the completed & polished manuscript, maybe even representation and, dare I say it - no, I don't, we won't risk breaking the Pop Off Rule.

Tomorrow night or soon thereafter I should be able to blog the completion of the first draft.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Query, Pitch Iterations and Project Re-Writes

I came to a stunner of a realization yesterday.

While writing the first draft I have also been doing a lot of research into agents, query letters, publishers, etc, so that when the time comes I'll be able to give the best chance of getting Overboard published. When I hit a block during the writing, or need a break or something, I'll read agent blogs such as Pub Rants and Miss Snark. Based on all their sage advice I started working on a query letter a while ago, and just recently I worked up a pitch and submitted it for review on the Bookends LLC blog.

So what?

Well, my novel-writing timeline was laid out for one year, with approximately 8 months budgeted for the first draft and 4 months for re-writes. If I'm going to stick with the timeline it will turn out to be 9 months and 3.

So what?

Yesterday I was looking at my query letter and the old iterations of it I have saved, and the pitch and its previous incarnations. I am on the 15th iteration of the query letter and 9th of the pitch. Each version is, I feel, better than the previous.

So, if it takes me FOURTEEN REWRITES of a query letter and EIGHT of a pitch, neither of which are yet perfect, how many times must I rewrite the novel itself to get it right?

I mean, HOLY CRAP, I'm agonizing over 4-5 paragraphs on the query letter and three SENTENCES on the pitch! Will it take 15 or more rewrites of the book?

My Project Pendulum is way over on the pessimistic side of the scale right now.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Late Breaking Thought

The writer's strike is ongoing, and I'm still writing. Dang.

Silas Arrives at Omega

^^^ There's a cryptic title for this blog entry.

I've been supplying my writer buddy with nearly daily updates of my progress on the Secret Project, most likely to his chagrin and boredom. After he humored me by saying that he didn't want those updates to give too much away when he finally gets to read the scintillating manuscript, I told him that Silas (the protagonist) needed to leave San Francisco, then travel to point A, B, then C, where the novel would end.

Silas arrived today at C, but I remarked to my wife, SFF, that I should have labeled it Omega.

So, Silas has arrived at Omega and I'm in the final stages. There is a lot that will happen at Omega, though, its not just a place to type "The End". To paraphrase and butcher Churchill's quote, its not the ending, or the ending of the beginning, but the beginning of what leads to the ending.

198,000 words as of this moment. Gulp.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Broke the Rule

The no-writing-at-home rule got broken today - with SFF's support. The kids went off to school, SFF had her own projects, and I was left in my office to scribe away. I got 4,000 words down despite distractions such as the phone, lunch, the dog bringing her toy in to play, and my own proclivity to waste time surfing web sites.

Speaking of surfing websites, I submitted a pitch for Overboard on a literary agent's blog, Bookends LLC . The agent has offered to review and comment on submitted book pitches. Her reviews look to me to be very helpful and informative. I'm at the end of a pretty long queue, however, so it will be some time before she gets to me.

To be clear, I didn't pitch the book to the agent, but submitted the pitch to be critiqued.

Upon further review, I'm going to add Bookends LLC to my links on the sidebar, because it appears to be an outstanding blog for helping prospective authors.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Good Sessions

I got a good couple of sessions in today during those periods I had available. 2,700 words recorded in the form of 1's and 0's on a spinning magnetic platter.

I almost lost a hunk of writing the other day. I was working on the Secret Project while riding in an airliner with no place to plug in the laptop, saw that the battery life was going, and stopped hitting the Save command to cut down on writes to the hard drive to stretch out the battery minutes. I was depending on the Mac's usual warning of a low battery, but for some reason it never came and it shut down on me. Damn!

I quickly scratched out an outline of what had been written, but figured it would never be the same. (Actually, it likely would have been better the second time around)

Anyway, I recharged the laptop and when it fired up again it pointed out that the document hadn't been saved, and asked if I would like to recover the data? Umm.... yes.

Way to go, Apple. I pity anyone who has to work with a winbloze machine.

Despite the fact that the words have been flowing at a good pace I don't think I'm going to make it (first draft done by Christmas) without breaking the no-writing-at-home rule once more. Its the only way to make the goal and my wife, SFF, who's been extremely supportive, will tell me to go ahead.

Word count: 186,500

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

I Didn't Know Silas Very Well

I hit the first draft another lick today and as I did so I realized how much Silas, the protagonist, has changed since I first made his acquaintance. I conceived the book idea and the character together and, although the rough outline of the story has stayed quite true to the original plan, Silas has not.

He's not the guy I thought he was. He's similar, certainly, but he thinks and acts differently, especially as the book goes on. I'm not sure how much that is due to the fact that he was different than I originally imagined him, and how much is due to the fact that Silas has changed as result of the people and events around him through 180,000 words of narrative.

I think it must be some of both and it would perhaps be best if most of it is due to him growing and changing through the course of the story. After all, character development is kind of important in a novel. ( I know, "Duh") Which leads to a question I've been wondering about for some time.

When I hit the period key that finishes the first draft I will know Silas far better than I knew him at the beginning of the novel, and he will have changed a lot from the 19 year old youngster who woke up on the farm one morning. So, when it comes time for The Great Rewrite, how do I separate those two changes in order to rewrite him accurately?

I'm probably not being clear. I should be able to rewrite Silas much better because I know him so much better - early scenes should ring more true once rewritten. On the other hand, I'm imagining it might be difficullt to keep the vastly more experienced and world-wise Silas of the end of the book from appearing in the early stages. He can't benefit in the rewrite, as a character, because of experience he gained throughout the later course of the narrative.

Its something that a good, experienced novelist is doubtless familiar with and is able to handle. I'm a first time novelist and it remains to be seen whether I'm a good one.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

In the Goldfields

My protagonist, Silas, is in the mountains of Gold Rush California and things are happening. The words are pouring out and into the laptop. I've looked forward to this, the final major section of the book, for some time, and its fun to write. After lunch today I found myself actually hurrying back to the hotel to get to writing.

The best part of it is that I can feel the various threads of the book all starting to come together. Where I am right now the (eventual) reader might not be feeling it but I certainly can. Everything is starting to coalesce into ever-narrower places and times until the final denouement which will provide, I like to think, a good ending.

As always, I'm wordy. It feels like I'm writing simply and directly, but scenes need to be set, events must occur, dialog needs to be spoken, and the next thing you know I've run the word count up. I was thinking that the first draft would finish at 200K, but I think I'm going to bust that.

180,400 as of right now.