Thursday, February 28, 2008

Back To It

I've finished my annual training for my real job and will be getting back to working on the novel tomorrow.

One thing that is rapidly becoming apparent is that I didn't budget enough time for rewrites into my one year write-a-novel schedule. I completed the first draft close to schedule, the second draft ahead of schedule, but I don't see how I can possibly get the whole book into polished, can't-be-made-better form by 31 March.

My mother has finished reading it - more on that on a later post - but my brother and sister are so busy they're barely started. That's another reason for the original overly-optimistic schedule - I didn't account for allowing beta readers the time they need to read it and get back to me with feedback.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Sucky Synopsis

How's that for a mature, well-reasoned title for a blog post?

Write a synopsis for my book? No problem, right? After all, I wouldn't tackle writing a novel if I didn't think I could kinda sorta write decently, and who better to synopsize a book than the author?

Holy crap.

I researched and read articles and reviewed examples of agent-procuring synopses and got right to it. I produced Overboard Synopsis 1.0, printed it and handed it to my wife, SFF. She read it and summarized it with, "Well, there are a couple of sentences I thought were okay."


After peeling away that trying-to-be-nice layer she admitted frankly that she thought it sucked. So, we went over it together, line by line, and by the end of it I had to agree with her. So, I buckled down to the keyboard, took all the constructive criticism aboard and produced Overboard Synopsis 1.4, which she is reading as I type this.

While I await the verdict, here are some synopsis-related links:

Nathan Bransford on Writing Synopses

The verdict is in:  SFF allows as how the synopsis is significantly improved.

Why the big press when the novel itself is only in version 2.24?  It's because the PNWA contest requires a synopsis and the entry deadline is tomorrow.  At the very least I'll have some synopsis experience and a basis to start from once I consider the book finished and agent querying begins.

SFF is reviewing Synopsis 1.5 right now and I need to get crap done.

Monday, February 18, 2008


The Bug racing was a lot of fun, the paintball game was great and we had a nice boat ride down the river but caught no steelhead. Tomorrow is the ski day with my daughter. All of this is wonderful.

On the other hand, as I keep polishing the first chapter (actually the first part of the first chapter) I keep finding things. Heck, I found and killed three more passive voice passages (PVP's) that had somehow escaped detection up until now. Heck, its historical fiction (the setting is 1848-1849) so I can spend the rest of my life polishing it, right?

Writing the synopsis is harder than I expected. I wrote a first draft synopsis that I didn't think was TOO bad and the most encouraging thing my wife, SFF, could say about it was 'Well, I liked a few of the paragraphs."

I don't see how I can possibly have this thing ready to query by my original goal of 01 April. The pendulum is over on the pessimistic side.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Reviews Pouring In

     Okay, that's a huge exaggeration.

     Mom called yesterday all excited to receive the manuscript.  It was an especially good surprise as we forward mail to them all the time (they're full-time RVers) and receiving a taped up cardboard mailer from me is normal.  She opened it and at first couldn't figure out what I had sent.  She says she can't wait to read it and promises to be completely biased in her review.
     My sister has started it but is so freaking busy that it will likely be a few days before she gets past the first page.
     Realizing that it would take a while for her to finish and forward it I unclamped my wallet and printed another copy which went out in the mail to my brother today.  Mom and sister promise to keep silent until brother has the fun of being surprised by it.
     Sneezer is further than anyone and his comments and criticism (all welcome) have already started to come in.  The best news is that he says he likes it.
     What I would like to do most of all right now is work on it, but a break would be for the best and my work and social schedule demand a break right now.  I'm significantly behind on studying for recurrent training, Sunday is a morning autocross followed by an afternoon paintball game, Monday is fishing with my son, Tuesday is skiing with my daughter, Wednesday is work, Thursday and Friday are ground school, I have the weekend off then Monday through Wednesday are simulators.  
     Somewhere in all that I need to get my studying done AND polish the first chapter AND write a stunningly effective synopsis for the PNWA contest, the entry deadline for which is one week away.
     Synopsis writing will be the subject of another post.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Secret Is Out

     I just got off the phone with my sister - the secret is out, she received her copy of the manuscript.
      She's excited about it because she had no idea it was coming (good job kids in keeping mum, especially over Christmas with the whole family at her house).  She reads a lot and should be a good reviewer.
     I'm excited because it's one of the significant milestones of the project.  I've been working on it for almost a year and through all the outlining and thinking about it and dreaming about it and writing down ideas in my notebook and spending months in getting it all down on the laptop this is one of the moments I've really been looking forward to - surprising folks with the fact that I'm writing a book.   
     Not just writing one, but I actually have a hard copy of the second draft in their hands.  As she and I talked about on the phone, it's easy to say you're writing a book just as it's easy to say that you're getting in shape to climb Mt. Everest, it's getting around to doing it that's the hard part.
       Another thing:  Just because I have completed the first rewrite doesn't mean that I count myself as having written a book.  It has to be as good as I can make it; I have to lean back from the keyboard and realize that I just can't think of a way to make it better.  At that point I will claim to have written a book.  
     A published book?  That's a different animal.
     So, now I'm waiting for the phone call from my folks.  My brother has to wait until my sister has finished reading that copy.  Sneezer, of course, knows its coming, but as he's in Iowa he may not receive his copy until later this week - or  later next month, depending on how muddy the roads are to Granger and how the stage coaches are doing.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Overboard Copies Posted via USPS

After squashing lingering doubt I decided that Overboard version 2.1 was good enough that I could show it to family & friends without my toes curling too badly.  Accordingly I created Overboard 2.1P,  which is the print version with single line spacing, Times New Roman 12 point font and page breaks for each chapter.  Thus configured the novel clocks in at 281 pages.  Four copies were printed and placed in cheap ring binding.

Today marks approximately 11 months since I started writing it and today I took three of the copies and mailed them away - I couldn't get them back now if I tried.  Perhaps I should change the name of the blog as  the project will no longer be a secret once the recipients open up their copies.

My wife, SFF, has started to read the 2.1P version.  As always I can't wait for her feedback and as for her she's been looking forward to reading it as a coherent whole.  Previously she read the rough draft in five separate chunks with months between each as I wrote them.  

My current tasks:  Prepare for recurrent training for my real job, fill research holes in the novel, polish the first chapter & write a synopsis for the PNWA contest, and wait for phone calls from people for whom a book manuscript in the mail from me will be a big surprise.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

First Rewrite Complete!

The first rewrite is complete, Overboard now exists in version 2.0.

I also completed the 2nd Draft well ahead of schedule.  Some stats:

Today's goal:    84.9% complete
Today's result:  100.0% complete

2nd Draft originally scheduled to be complete 15 Feb, actually complete 09 Feb.

1st Draft word count:  206,300
2nd Draft word count: 190,500

Percent reduction 1st Draft to 2nd:  8.7%

Today I did some formatting for better readability and as I type this the first of four copies is coming off the printer.  Copies should be in the mail Monday to my mother/father, brother/sister, and Sneezer.  Only Sneezer knows about the project.

WHICH MEANS that my Secret Project is about to be secret no longer.  After approximately 11 months of working on the book it will be going out into the world, all naked and new and vulnerable.  I've been looking forward to this for a long time, and all of a sudden I feel trepidation.

To quote Marty McFly, "What if they don't like it?  What if they think I'm no good?  I just don't think I could handle that type of rejection."

Yes, I can handle that type of rejection, but it would be rather a bummer.  Still, brutally honest feedback is what I want.

Mom, Dad, Janet, Daren, Sneezer - if you click back on this blog and see this post after you read the manuscript........yes, I want your honest, no-holds-barred opinions.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

'Nother Progress Report

I've been hitting it pretty hard, trying to get a day or more ahead of schedule.  The stats:

Today's goal:   78.3% rewrite complete
Today's result: 84.0%

The word count has crept up.  At 70% rewrite complete it was 193,000, today at 84% the count is 193,600.  BUT, there is a fairly big scene I've almost reached that will be cut, thereby dropping the count back down.  

I'm almost decided to submit to the PNWA contest, the only real drawback is that after completing the 2nd draft I will need to further polish the first 25 pages for submission AND write a synopsis, all during the week that I need to be preparing for recurrent training for my real job.


Did anyone notice that I didn't win Nathan Bransford's first page contest?  I did, but that was expected.  I must say that I admired the 6 finalists, although there was one that I didn't particularly care for.  The one I voted for to win did so.

Several writing styles among the finalists were particularly impressive and I thought, 'Wow, I need to be able to write like that', then upon further thought I realized that I don't.  I just need to write the way I write, then get better and better at writing that way.  


Monday, February 4, 2008

Monday, Progress, Critiques

Here I am doing my best to stick with my I'll-always-post-on-Monday pledge.

After getting unexpected but appreciated brief critiques as a result of entering Nathan Bransford's contest I recently signed up for a free critique (see last post) and now I'm thinking of entering a literary contest.

The Pacific Northwest Writer's Association has an annual contest which closes for entries on February 22nd.  What intrigues me is not the chance of winning (slim at best), but the fact that they promise two critiques for each entry.  

Feedback is what I'm craving at this point.  I will be getting feedback soon from family and friends, but I'm concerned that they'll be too, um, nice about it if they think it sucks.  They may even  honestly think that its better than Lonesome Dove and say so, but who can trust a mother's judgement to be unbiased when reading her son's work?

OBTW, I've read all kinds of warnings about watching out for scam and bullshit writer's contests, but the PNWA appears to be legitimate - they've been around as a writer's group for decades.  The entry fee is $50 - are two semiprofessional critiques of the first chapter worth it?


Today's rewrite goal:  68.3% complete
Actually completed:    69.9%

Yes, once again ahead of schedule.  The problem with doing 3.3% each and every day is there is no room for unforeseen circumstances (last Friday) and no room for a fishing day (promised son) or ski day (promised daughter).  I need to get further ahead.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Another Critique Opportunity

Clicking around various writing links I came across another opportunity for critical feedback.

Flogging the Quill  is a site that is offering to critique the first page of a submitted first chapter.  It appears to me to be someone simply offering help to writers. The reviewer promptly emailed a response that it might be a while before he got to me as his queue of submissions is getting longer.  You must agree to have your submission publicly critiqued on his site.

Status Update:

On Friday, due to unavoidable circumstance I was unable to work on the rewrite for the first time in 15 days and as a result fell behind schedule.  I made it up this weekend and got back on track.

Goal for 03 Feb:  65% complete
Actual result:       65% complete

1st Draft Word Count:  205,900
Current Word Count:    193,100

My schedule calls for the 2nd draft to be done by 15 Feb.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

The First Page as Entered

I should have done this sooner -  below is the first page of Overboard as entered in Nathan Bransford's Surprisingly Essential First Page Challenge.  I have since made a few minor changes, but this is it exactly as I copied it out of my rough draft and pasted it into Nathan's blog:
The morning started like any other on our farm outside St Joseph, Missouri . Dawn lightened the gloom in our cabin, cocks restless to leave the roost began to crow, and the smell of my sister’s cooking wafted from below. I lay on our corn shuck bed in the loft hoping for another few minutes of drowsiness, but I could hear my father clumping down the ladder to the kitchen. He would soon be calling for my brother and I to bestir ourselves.

Drowsiness was fast evaporating anyway as I became conscious of an uncomfortable chill. My kid brother Caleb, scrappy even while sleeping, had managed as usual to hog all of the old quilt that constituted our bedding. To pay him back I rolled off the bed, grasped the edge of the quilt with both hands, and gave it a vicious jerk. The results were better than average as he shot clean off the bed and landed with a satisfying thump. Before he had time to untangle the quilt or his wits I had thrown my shirt and britches to the floor of the cabin and was down the ladder.

My sister Angeline turned from stirring eggs at the stove. “You know that Caleb’s just going to lay for you all day to get you back, so why do you do that to him?”

“Because the little bastard steals the covers every night, you know that.”

“Yes, I know that. I also know that if he was your size you wouldn’t dare, just as you wouldn’t dare exercise your filthy mouth like that if Pa were here.”

“Pa’s out sitting on the family throne so I’ll use my mouth as I see fit and Caleb will just have to look out for himself - as will you.”

As I said the last words I pinched her rear with one hand one hand and a piece of bacon with the other . I was pivoting to make my escape when suddenly my breath left my body in a whoosh and I found myself doubled over and wondering why it was so difficult to breathe all of a sudden. Painfully turning my head to the right I perceived a pair of dirty bare feet.

“I ain’t so little anymore, brother, and I figure I just might as well get you back now as wait for later,” said the darling little red haired Caleb, just 15 years old but already approaching six feet tall and well muscled from farm work. He was delighted with my gasping attempts to get air back in my lungs and his eyes were shining in anticipation of a fight. “How’s your day going so far, Silas?”

Comments and criticism are welcome.  What doesn't kill me will make me stronger.