When Your Novel Is A Mess…

Yesterday, I was feeling pretty good about my editing. I’ve been editing this novel for a while and while it’s been slow going, it is coming along. And that’s a good thing!

Then, tonight I looked at the first part as a whole and I think it’s just to dang long. I need to have the first plot point come sooner—a lot sooner. Conventionally, it should be at around the twenty-five percent mark and mine comes a lot later.

I don’t know if this means moving scenes from the first act into the second act, or cutting them altogether. I’ll probably need a combination of both.

Why does editing have to be so incredibly hard?! Also, why couldn’t I have learned anything useful about editing in school? Seriously, despite all the writing I learned over the years, I don’t think I learned a single useful thing about editing my own writing. But that’s a story for another time.


Writing Woes

You guys, writing is not for the faint of heart. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

I’ve spent the past week or so struggling with a book that just wasn’t working. It was an old idea I was trying to outline and brainstorm. It involved vampires and Moscow and was supposed to be awesome, in theory.

Unfortunately, in practice, it was not so great. Maybe it’s a bad idea, or just not the right idea for me right now, but it was totally not working. I saved my notes, but put them aside. Now I’m back to working on a second round of edits on the novel I was working on before. I think I’ll have to redo a lot of the first act of that book. Better to discover that now than later, I suppose. I am also the world’s slowest editor, so this is going to be very slow going. Maybe I’ll write some short stories in order to take short breaks during my editing…

Diving Right In

Ten days ago, I finished the third draft of a novel. I’d been working on it for… far too long, considering the end product. Including my time outlining, I was occupied with the thing for over a year. (I started outlining in December 2016.) And I’m not even close to being done with it. I know it needs a lot of editing, starting with some cuts in the beginning. The first act of the story, which should be approximately the first quarter of the book, is a tad on the long side. Plus I’m considering redoing the entire book in third person rather than first. First person is really, really, really hard to write well, in my opinion. (I will point you to the many mediocre first-person novels out there. There are a ton of them.) I’m not sure if this book really requires first person, the more I think about it, so a rewrite may be in store.

I don’t like to edit immediately after finishing something, though, so I put that manuscript aside. The day after I finished it, I started editing something else. It’s another manuscript I finished back in 2015, meant to edit, but then never got around to it. A writer’s work is never done, you guys. Anthony Trollope the prolific (and financially successful!) Victorian novelist wrote every day—even if he finished something. As in, if he still had time left to write after finishing, he started on his next project that very same day. Brandon Sanderson, a modern novelist who is very, very successful (he writes fantasy and supports his family with his writing, which is basically my dream), wrote thirteen or so novels before he got published. And it wasn’t the thirteenth one that was published first. It was the sixth or seventh that managed to spark an editor’s interest and launch his writing career.

Now, I don’t want to jinx anything or get ahead of myself… but that manuscript I mentioned above, the one I finished in 2015 that I’m editing now? I actually sort of like it. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot in it I have to fix. I’m reading through it now and have almost five pages of notes already. But I feel like it has actual potential. I’d love to get it into a state where I actually feel comfortable pitching it. Because I’ve never pitched a novel before and that’s something I want to do this year.

July 2017 Writing Report

Obligatory writing instrument.

July was a pretty good month for me, writing-wise. I wrote a total of 23,621 words, which is an average of 761 words per day. My novel is coming together pretty well, though I think the first act is going to be too long, which means I’ll have to cut chapters or move some stuff around (or both).

Anyway, my July word count is even better when you consider that only wrote for fifteen days in the month. What helped push it higher were some really high word counts. The highest number of words I wrote in one day was 4,049, which is a lot for me. I hope I can get some high word counts this month, too. I didn’t write during my vacation, so I’ve got some catching up to do! 🙂

June 2017 Writing Report

I don’t actually write with quills, thank goodness!

You guys, June was a really good month for writing. I got off to a bit of a rocky start because of the certification exam, but then I really took off and it was great. I’m really happy about this. I wrote a total of 19,918 words in June, which is an average of 663 words per day. That’s almost to my goal of 700 per day that I set for this year. I missed only 13 days of writing, which isn’t too bad. What really pushed me over the edge were a couple of 3,000 word days I had in there. Seriously, 3,000 words is a really good word count (for me) and I’m pleased I was able to do that twice. (Just so you know, I’ve already done it once in July, too!)

Oh, and I finished a draft of my science fiction book. This book has had many plot and character changes, so I think this was draft #4. I haven’t read over it yet and I’m sure it needs editing, but I really hope it doesn’t need another rewrite because a fifth rewrite sounds a bit ridiculous, even to me.

How’s your writing going?

November Writing Report

Obligatory writing instrument.
Obligatory writing instrument.

Welcome to the November Writing Report! November was a strange month for writing. I didn’t do NaNoWriMo—not this year—but a lot of people I follow on Twitter did. They were racking up huge word counts while I had… 0, at least for a while.

I had 0 words for nearly the first two weeks of November because I was finishing up an outline. Luckily, that outline is done (I outlined by hand and dang, it took a very long time to do) and I’m actually working on a project, which makes me feel productive again. Outlining is essential to my writing process, but somehow it doesn’t always feel productive. Maybe because it’s difficult to get an accurate word count when you hand-write things. I’m considering doing my next outline on the computer and then printing it out when I’m finished.

Anyway, I wrote 12,986 words in November, which is an average of 433 per day. Though if you only count the days that I was actually writing (i.e. finished with the outline), that average jumps up to 721 per day (I had 18 writing days in November). I like that number better, so we’ll go with that. 😉

Anyway, I’m planning to finish the year strong and keep working on my current project, which is a major rework of a novel I wrote last year. The first version had some… issues, but then I learned a lot more about story structure (though I was aware of story structure, I never really bothered to learn about it until this year, which is very foolish of me!), so this current version has a definite structure, both on the scene level and the big-picture level. It’s funny how that works: plot points up move your story forward and it’s great. Who would’ve thought?!

I’m not going to end up with as many words this year as I did last year (we’ll talk about that in more detail when December is over), but I did some good writing this year. Spoiler alert: one of my 2017 goals will involve actually sending that writing out. 😮

October Writing Report

Obligatory writing instrument.
Obligatory writing instrument.

I almost didn’t post a writing report for October because it was kind of strange month, writing-wise. I didn’t do much writing that’s easy to record in my writing log. (Yes, I have a writing log. It’s in a spreadsheet—I use Apple iWork’s Numbers but Excel would also work—and it’s awesome.) By that, I mean I finished writing a short story, and it’s easy to track the word count for that. But then I started writing an outline for my next novel. (That, in and of itself, is a bit of a story. Basically, I had a bit of writer’s block and couldn’t decide which of my ideas to outline. Long story short: I managed to make a decision.) I studied story structure and scene structure and character development. As a result this outline has become massive. I worked on it most days in October and it’s still not finished. And I have no idea how many words it is because I outline by hand in my writing notebook.

Anyway, I only wrote 4,730 words in October. That’s 4,730 words in my word processing program (thank you, Scrivener, for the awesome word count tracker thing you have!). If I had to estimate how many words I’ve outlined… well, I think the total word count for the month would surpass 10,000 and possibly 15,000. But there’s no way to know for sure unless I type all of my outlining and brainstorming up, which I don’t intend to do.

I’m hoping to finish the outline in the next week or so. Then, I’ll begin drafting this novel. It’s actually a major rework of a novel I wrote at this time last year. This new version is way better plotted and way more interesting (in my obviously unbiased opinion, haha).

Oh, and that short story I mentioned earlier? I’m planning on submitting it for publication. Of course, if it is accepted somewhere, I promise to tell all of you blog readers. 🙂 Be patient, though. Unfortunately, the writing and publishing world works extremely slowly…

September 2016 Writing Report

Obligatory writing instrument.
Obligatory writing instrument.

Happy October, everyone! It’s finally started to cool off where I live—thank goodness—now that October is here. And a new month means it’s time for a writing report. I’m happy to say that September was a pretty good month for me, writing-wise. I wrote a total of 22,885 words, which is an average of 763 a day. That’s actually my best average this year! I took eleven days off from writing, which is pretty good since that means I had some pretty good word counts on the the days I wrote. (My highest was 3,357, in case you’re wondering.)

I also started working on a new short story at the end of the month (it’s in progress right now and I hope to finish it later this week) that I’m really excited about. I brainstormed the scenes in a different way than I usually do and I feel like it’s a stronger piece already. I plan to submit it to magazines, so if it gets published, I’ll announce it on the blog.

Who’s ready for a busy month of writing in October?! It’s the month before NaNoWriMo, which means if you’re participating, it’s probably time to start outlining…

What To Do When Your Novel Just Isn’t Working

Alternate title: Doing Things The Hard Way

Another alternate title: When You Want To Pull Out Your Hair Due To Your Current Writing Project

I’ve been having trouble with my novel recently (more on this later on in the post) and that made me think of some other things from my life. Observe:

  • When I decided to learn a musical instrument, I chose the violin. Now, I realize playing an instrument is always hard, but violin is probably harder than most because there’s no guide for where to put your fingers. You just have to practice a lot until you get a feel for it. And by “practice a lot,” I mean you have to play for years before this becomes second nature.
  • When I decided to learn a foreign language, I didn’t choose one that is in the same language family as English (like German) or at least had a big influence on English (like French). No, I chose Russian, which isn’t even written in the same alphabet we use in English!
  • When I decided I wanted to go into business, I chose one of the more difficult fields: finance. Not only that, but I started studying it at the masters level and did a condensed program that meant I took almost twice the usual credits a typical graduate student at my school took all while studying a brand-new subject and searching for a job.

I list all of this not to brag, but to show that I seem to like doing things the hard way. Therefore, it probably won’t surprise you that when I went to write a book—and I mean a serious attempt with the aim of publishing it someday—I chose to do a series instead of a standalone novel.

Let me make a few things clear: first, writing any book is hard. Period. But I think certain books are harder than others. In general, non-fiction is easier to write than fiction, and fiction in a series is harder than fiction that is standalone. Why is the latter true? Because aside from juggling all the characters and plot threads and plot developments in one book, you have to make sure that the series itself has an overall arc. In the Harry Potter series, each book has its own plot development and resolution, but each book as a whole also contributes to one massive overarching storyline. It’s enough to make your head want to explode.

This brings me to the main point of the post: I’m having a lot of trouble with my current manuscript, the second novel in a science fiction trilogy. By trouble, I mean that the whole thing didn’t feel right the entire time I was outlining, and now that I’m writing, it doesn’t feel right, either. I’m sorry I can’t be more descriptive, but that’s a lot of what writing is for me: there’s a certain feel to certain things you do. Basically, my intuition is telling me something’s wrong.

I think there are several things at work here contributing to my novel troubles. In no particular order, they are:

  1. Writing a series is really hard, so maybe I’ve bitten off more than I can chew at this point. After all, I’m not a writer with decades of experience. Even experienced writers struggle with plotting and then properly executing a series, I’d imagine.
  2. My story idea may not be a good fit for a series. As in, I may be stretching an idea out into three books that could be better covered in one or two.
  3. I’m not fully finished with edits on the first book, so I’m kind of jumping the gun by moving onto the second book. My subconscious realizes this and is resisting my efforts.

There may be other problems, too, that I don’t see, but for the moment, this is what I’ve come up with.

So what can one do about this? Here’s my plan. First, I’m going to continue to edit the first book in my series (though theoretically it may become a standalone novel, but we’ll see). I need to do some structural changes, then hopefully I’ll be able to talk about the book with someone else because after a while, it is so hard to evaluate your own work.

Second, I’m going to work on something completely different. Editing is so difficult that I can only do a certain amount before my eyeballs want to fall out, so when I’m not editing or working or doing my other hobbies, I’m going to outline and write a fun novel. It isn’t set in this same science fiction world. If you really want to know, I’m kind of tired of science fiction right now! (I never thought I’d say that, but editing has a way of making one tired of just about anything.) For me, fun books involve spies, Russia, and good things like that, so that’s all I’m going to say about this other project. Oh, and I’m trying out an awesome new outlining method using Excel (you can do a Google search for this if you’re interested because there are ton of good posts out there explaining how to do it) that seems to be working well so far.

Will I accomplish my goal of publishing something this year? Honestly, I don’t know. It’s still the beginning of the year, so I have hope of getting a halfway decent manuscript by the end of 2016, but I don’t know if that will happen or not. The only thing I know for sure is I’m doing my best not to stress about it. This whole experience I’ve described in this post has been a bit stressful, but I don’t want writing to be stressful. Ultimately, I want writing to be something I enjoy. It’s been great fun for me in the past and I want it to be fun again.

December Writing Report (Plus EPIC Yearly Overview)

In case the title doesn’t clue you in, today’s writing report isn’t just for the month of December. I’m also going to have a yearly overview, which is exciting because 2015 was my first year to seriously track my writing. So here goes…

In December, I didn’t write much because of editing and end-of-the-year vacation. Therefore, I wrote only 4,555 words, which is an average of 146 per day. That’s depressingly low, so we’ll move on to the yearly portion right away.

In the year 2015, I wrote a grand total of 222,484 words. That’s an average of 609 per day. Wow! I’m very pleased with that amount. Some—or maybe even most—of those words may not ever be published (trust me, a lot of the stuff I’ve worked on in the past is just plain bad), but I do feel like there’s improvement in my writing. I’m a strong believer of the idea that the more books you write, the better you’ll get. The improvement may be very, very slow, but it will happen.

What’s next for me this year? I’m writing a first draft of the second book in my science fiction series. I also have a few more edits planned for the first book in said series. There are a couple things about the structure I want to change, so a lot of that will involve moving scenes around. I hope I’ll finish those edits and get at least one, if not two drafts of the second book done this year, but we’ll see.

What are your writing goals for 2016?