30 October, 2011

The Slog

Rewriting is a slog. Somehow I feel like I have less free time than I did when I was writing the first draft. Probably just a figment of my imagination, but maybe the kids really are sucking up more of my time than they used to.

Actually, part of it is sleep. When I was writing the FD, I'd stay up till 1 or 2 many nights, just writing for a few hours all by myself (kids, wife in bed). Lately, I'm having trouble staying up that late. I get really sleepy by midnight and just have to hit the hay.

I've revised 12 of 34 chapters so far, in the two weeks or so since I finished the first draft. The book is about 2,000 words shorter. So another month, probably, to finish this revision pass. Then I'll read through the entire thing, stem to stern, and make notes along the way about what needs to change, and do another pass. With luck, I should be ready to move into the publishing phase by the end of the year. (Gotta get a cover painted; I recently met an artist who lives nearby and his style looks perfect for what I envision.)

22 October, 2011

The Rewrite Shuffle

Right now I'm doing a world-building pass on the novel, to make sure that all the relevant elements of the world are explored in enough detail (but not too much; I don't want them getting in the way of the story and characters, I just want institutions and historical facts and other details mentioned at least once before they become relevant later on).

But I can't stop myself from editing the prose along the way. I realize that the presentation of information about the story world is affected by the words used to present them, so maybe that's part and parcel and I should just embrace it; at the same time, I feel like work done to make the prose tighter is wasted, because it could all change later on (due to some story element).

And yet, I can't help it. If I turn on read-only mode on the document, I end up just reading and not analyzing. But the editing process takes much longer if I'm constantly stopping to adjust word choice.

Perhaps it would be helpful to go through the novel and write a scene list, with information about what details are presented where, to give an overview of the story. Then I would be able to analyze the world-building elements without getting caught up in the prose. That just sounds really time-consuming, and I'm not sure it would lead to a better outcome in the long run. There's also the fact that whenever I change anything in the text, I'd have to change the outline as well to stay in sync with it. And I've already got a good grasp on what world-building details are where.


17 October, 2011

First draft completed

Last night around 00:15 I completed the first draft of my novel in progress. 164,396 words in the draft, although considerably more words were written along the way (five chapters were rewritten from scratch, and numerous other small edits were made along the way, of course). It was 87 days since I started the novel, on the evening of July 22, for an average of 1,889 words per day, which I'm quite happy with considering that I can only work on it for at most two or three hours a day, on a good day.

This is the longest piece of writing I've ever completed. The tiny demons of self-doubt made a few sallies during that time, but I managed to suppress them. However this is only the first draft (well, the prologue and chapters 1-4 are on their second full drafts... actually, so is chapter 23, come to think of it, which I wrote from the wrong character's POV the first time around).

Now the hard part begins: rewriting chapters 5-32 and the epilogue from scratch again, incorporating all the new developments I came up with along the way. There's entire organizations I invented for background, who aren't mentioned until 2/3 of the way through now (because that's when I came up with them), and they need to be integrated into the story, for the sake of world-building and flavor. I'm pretty happy with the main story and character development, and it ends in a good place: this is the first novel in a planned trilogy.

Rewriting entire chapters from scratch is painfully difficult, but it is necessary. Once I've got all the story beats in place properly, the final phase will be to go over the prose with a fine-toothed comb, making sure it flows, and that every paragraph, sentence, and line of dialogue is as compact and interesting as possible. 164k words is a lot longer than the average novel, as I understand it, but I don't think there's any unnecessary elements. (Although I'm sure I'll come across some as I'm rewriting.) There are, however, quite a lot of elaborations on things that could stand to be trimmed down.

10 October, 2011

How do you know when it's good?

How do you know when your work is good enough to publish?

It depends on your goals. Is your goal to be a published author, making a living at writing? Then you only need your writing to be good enough to get published, and to convince people who read it to pay you to write more.

That's my goal. My main goal. It would be nice to be a world-renowned author with lots of awards and attention, but I think that happens more by luck than even by hard work. Someone with the talent and skill and marketing sense and who can put in a colossal amount of hard work... still might not become world-famous. But as long as you keep writing, you've got a chance.

That's why my main goal is to get paid for writing. Because if I can get paid for writing, I can give up my day job, and then I can spend all the time I would have been programming, writing. And then I'll be writing 8-10 hours a day, instead of the 1-2 I have time for right now.

But to get paid for writing, you have to be able to write stuff people will pay you for. And you have to know if it's good enough before you send it off to be read, because if it's not good enough, your work will get rejected and ignored.

So when I ask, "How do you know when it's good?" what I'm really asking is, "How do you know when it's good enough that someone will buy it?" This isn't a hard and fast line; consider short story A, which would be bought for print by 5% of the potential buyers, versus story B, which would be bought for print by 30% of the potential buyers. Is it good enough? That depends on whether you can find someone in the set of buyers who will buy your work.

One indicator that it's good enough, or almost good enough, is that an editor or agent shows interest in it -- or if someone actually buys it. Then you know that professionals in the field consider it [almost] good enough. With a little more work, a little more practice, maybe it finally will be good enough.

The only thing you can accurately say about a work that hasn't sold is that it hasn't sold yet. Maybe it won't ever sell; maybe you just haven't found the right buyer yet. When it does sell, then you've got proof that you can write something sellable; but that doesn't mean you can do it again.

But if you're a writer, you'll sure as hell keep trying. I know I will. I will write until the day I die.

05 October, 2011

Na NO WriMo

I did NaNoWriMo a couple of years. One year I wrote maybe 15,000 words, the next year I managed to get to 40k or so. It's a fun experiment, assuming your goal is not to actually produce a publishable novel. If you enjoy writing as a hobby, then I highly recommend it.

I doubt I'll do NNWM again. Since I'm intending to make this my career, NNWM itself would be a distracting sideline. Every month should (will!) be novel-writing month for me. I'm already writing an average of about 80,000 words a month now anyway (including square-one rewrites, but not editing).

You want to succeed? You want to publish? They say you have to put your ass in the chair and write, and that's true; but there's something deeper than that. Never give up. Tell yourself you will succeed. When the self-doubt comes calling, squash that little bastard. The other day, I thought, But what if I don't succeed?

No, I told myself. You will succeed. And so I will.