Difficult Choices #1

This post is approximately 550 words. It had been longer, but…difficult choices were made.

Phew. It’s been more than four months since I posted Tighten Up Your Writing #6. The final draft editing continues apace, which is the primary reason I haven’t been blogging.

Well, that and the Gears 5 Tech Test over two weekends in July.

Anyway, today’s update is about a choice I’d been debating a few months. Jack, aka Trusted Reader 16 and one of my most enthusiastic contributors, had given me the same feedback each time I provided new chapters: Some were too long.

He was right every time and I followed his suggestions.

After his latest round of feedback, I literally tallied up the word counts of every chapter and put them in a spreadsheet (hey, I’m a data guy).  A few hit 6,000 and two were on their way to 8,000. In most cases, every scene within a chapter was connected and followed a theme. I did my job well enough that the chapter titles fit all the pieces within.

And yet, those were some long chapters. I’d recently set a target of 3,000 to 4,000 words to keep the reading effort light, while also making it feel like the story kept moving. I was missing the mark. It reminded me of reading when I just want to get to the end of a chapter so I can take a break. Fortunately, I’ve yet to receive that criticism from my Trusted Readers.

I had a difficult choice to make. Do I break up the big chapters?

Murder your darlings

Continue reading

Asking Your Customers Questions

This quick post is approximately 350 words, and I typed it with one hand whilst eating a tasty quesadilla.

Fridays are quesadilla days at the Eagan Thomson Reuters office. I dig ‘em. On Friday, the chef was out of green onions, which was fine. As he was serving up my food a few minutes later, he asked me a question. Would I be interested in sautéed onions or mixed peppers as an alternative ingredient? Some days when he’s out of onions, he’s thinking about other ways to serve his customers. I believe my response was a dignified, “Oooh! Onions!”

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These two crumbs are all that remain. I even ate the to-go box.

He graciously thanked me for my feedback and we both went about our workdays. With that simple question, he found a way to solve a problem, while also improving the service he could provide to customers. For me, I like that he cared enough to ask my opinion, but I also get the satisfaction of influencing the deliciousness of a future meal.

Writers should have a similar mindset. True, much of what we do is for ourselves, and we have the right to be as selfish as we want in our stories. However, we also need to keep a portion of our brains on our readers. Our customers. That is, unless you don’t intend to have anyone read your story, which sounds like zero funs.

Readers have myriad desires when it comes to reading a book. They want to enjoy it. They want new experiences. They want to be surprised, but they also like to figure things out before your protagonist. Perhaps they want their spirits lifted after a long day or feel the melancholy tugs of nostalgia.

You don’t need a person to read an entire chapter or even a passage. It’s terrifying: I know (here and here). But it’s not very scary to ask a friend or family member, “Hey, what do you think if I did ____________ in my story?”

I believe you’ll find yourself pleasantly surprised by the experience. So will your trusted person.

–Mike


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© Michael Wallevand, December 2018

Writing Update – 3 Years In

Three years.

December 11, 2015 is more of a ceremonial date because I’m not sure how much writing I did at the start. Did I sit down and type, “Tildy sat up so quickly her head swam” – the first sentence of the first chapter – that first day? I don’t think so. I’m pretty certain I didn’t have her name yet. If memory serves, I started with the prologue, which has a boatload of too much historical context in it.

I recall thinking about a new direction for my story over the Summer of 2015. I started parts of it twenty-five years ago and I still liked much of the world I’d created. However, I needed to inject something into it: something to make it appeal to a broader audience and something to reinvigorate myself as a writer.

I wondered what kind of books the real world needed. It occurred to me that we could use more stories with empowered female characters, and they had to appeal to girls and boys. As simply as that, I was running, sprinting, in a new direction.

The writing came suddenly. One day I wasn’t writing; the next day I was.

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Three years later, and more than a thousand hours of effort, I’m coming up on 190,000 words, which is about 100,000 more than I intended. I’ve also removed characters, places, and scenes to cut another 30,000 words. And I’m pretty sure I’ll have a bit more culling to do. Continue reading

That Time I Shared My Writing #2

This post is approximately 400 words and is the follow-up to a piece I wrote about two years ago: That Time I Shared My Writing #1.

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Over the last two years, I’ve shared portions of my book with sixteen ‘trusted readers’. They’ve ranged from family and friends, to coworkers and even one of my wife’s students. Their feedback can be grouped into two categories:

  1. Positive and rewarding (yay!)
  2. Radio silence (meh!)

Continue reading

Tpyos will always plague you

This post is approximately 450 words. Yes, the title was deliberate.

I love writing, which means I’ve spent a considerable portion of my life doing it. I’ve written thousands of pages and reviewed thousands more. If you’re like me, you’ve developed proofreading, editing, and copyediting skills. We understand that spellcheck isn’t foolproof. Long story short (too late!), we have the tools at our disposal to deliver pristine prose.

And yet, the typos return like locusts, plaguing our writing on a biblical scale.

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Case in point, I recently had a friend review two chapters of my manuscript. Oh man, were these some challenging ones to write. When your protagonist is following a trail of destruction, it’s tough to keep every new discovery fresh. I was also unhappy with the amount of exposition, though I eventually found ways to make those passages feel natural. I also introduced the monster and tested the mettle of our hero. And lastly, I had finally reached the portion of the book where I’d removed one of my important secondary characters, and I needed to make additional hard decisions about his contributions to the story. These chapters hurt my writing brain. Continue reading

Writing Update: November 13, 2016

This post is about 250 words. 

It’s been a few months since I published an update like this, but with back-to-school, Boy Scouts, the election, and the release of Gears of War 4, it’s been a busy Autumn.

Oh yeah, and I’ve been doing  massive amounts of editing.

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I haven’t been idle, even if this blog has been a bit quiet. To remedy that, I’ve uploaded excerpts to the site.

Continue reading

That time I shared my writing #1

This post is approximately 550 words, and the first one I’ve written since August 31. For shame.

You know the old nightmare: the one where you’re standing in front of the class completely naked. That’s a doozy, right?

nightmare

I’ve often told friends I’d rather be naked in a crowd than share my writing. To their relief, I choose the latter. But it’s a similar fear: the thought of exposing your very real self, the part that almost no one ever sees. As a writer – and I’ve heard similar things from other aspiring novelists – I’m often in my head, examining and re-examining every single word that comes out, dreading that I’ve created something awful. That all the imperfections are spotlight-worthy. Perhaps unfairly so, but c’est la vie.

It’s paradoxical, right? You’re working on a book you want people to read, yet you’re scared of showing it to anyone. For me, I want a million people to read my book. Ambitious, optimistic, crazy? Yes to all the above. But I’ve got to show it to one person first. And hoo boy, that’s the painful struggle. Continue reading