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.

superman_typing

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.

jump around.gifThis month, I’m finishing up the final chapter and the epilogue, and then the mid-draft is complete. I’m now using this term instead of a numbering system for drafts because I’ve discovered I reaaaaaally don’t edit in a linear fashion. I read and edit. I jump around. Re-read and re-edit. I jump up, jump up, and get down. Some parts of the book have changed twenty times. Others have been touched once or twice. While it would be easier to tell someone, “I’m working on the third draft or eighth draft”, it’s just not accurate. I have the first draft, mid-draft, and final draft.

Once I finish the mid-draft, I print the beast: 374 pages of 12-point Arial font in MS Word. Thirty-seven chapters, a prologue, and an epilogue. If I keep my head down, and don’t write too many blog posts, maybe I can get this to the print shop before Christmas. This would allow me to start reading it over my holiday vacation, and hopefully, I’ll enjoy myself.

That is, until I whip out a dozen colored pens and start marking up the crap out of it. Call it my New Year’s Resolution.

too many pens.jpg

No no no: fuchsia is for typos, magenta for grammar, and rose for verb tense conflicts.

But it’s also the draft where I can hand a completed copy to a trusted reader or three. I’ve shared the beginning chapters with nearly twenty people now, but no one has read the entire thing completely. I’m asking a lot, so we’ll see if their enthusiasm wanes explodes with delight! As I mentioned in a recent post, That Time I Shared My Writing #2, I’m extremely grateful for my trusted readers, and I’ll take any feedback they have, even if it’s, “You lost me on page 1.”

After all of that, we’re on to the Final Draft, and then, maybe after that, I can start looking into literary agents and publishing. In a serious manner, though, not in the I’m-unmotivated-to-write-and-need-a-distraction-so-I’ll-daydream-and-do-“research” manner.

That’s the plan.

Complicated-plan

As I was re-reading my one- and two-year anniversary posts (links below), I saw that I’d described some things I’d learned. Here are the big moments from Year 3, in no particular order:

  • I significantly under-described some scenes in the original draft. Or I decided I had plenty more to say. Candidly, I think some first-draft sections were glorified outlines.
  • Related to that, I finally found a consistent plotline that connected everything in a sensible way. Or so I think. Having not read it straight through myself, I guess we’ll see.
  • I’ve always been a huge gamer, and it’s been the bane of, well, many things. I think I struck a better balance this last year, and I often chose to game and write in an evening, instead of letting one monopolize my time.
  • I recommend connecting more with other creative people, even if they aren’t in your genre or medium. They’re as hungry for feedback as you are. I’m now exchanging time with a former colleague who’s starting a podcast, and we’re each interested in the other’s project.
  • No matter how many times I’ve lost my motivation or my rhythm, I’ve always gotten them back. Maybe I’m lucky. But also, I persevere when I can do nothing more than type with one finger or disparage every single word I’ve ever written ever. EVER. There will be black days, but man, there will be some brilliant ones, too.
  • And finally, one thing I re-learned. Writing can be your escape, your salvation, your energy, your love, your greatest hope. I do it because it’s all these things to me. After an extra-long workday, a gross commute, and a kid that wants to sit on my lap all evening to play iPad games, I can still be completely recharged by a couple hours of writing.

So, there you go. That’s what happens when a writer gets inspired and spends three years working on a project. There aren’t too many things in a person’s life that she or he spends this much time on, in my experience.

As much as it has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, it’s also been one of the most wonderful and rewarding and fulfilling. Here’s to a great 2019. Good luck with your own writing!

–Mike

PS: Click these links to see where I was after Year 1 and Year 2!


Enjoy what you just read? Leave a comment or like the post and we’ll ensure that you see more like this!

© Michael Wallevand, December 2018

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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.

nervous kermit

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

Helping Define Your Company’s Culture

This post is a quick ‘un.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post entitled Sharing your other work at work in which I described my submission to the Thomson Reuters brand marketing team, who was looking for employees to help showcase and define our culture. It’s part of a greater recruiting effort to bring in top talent from around the globe.

Sharing your writing can be nerve-wracking at the best of times, but there’s a certain other level of anxiety that comes with standing up and saying, “Hey coworkers, I think what I’m doing is important enough to help define our brand to the world.”

Continue reading

Shine a flashlight in the dark

This post is approximately 550 words and deals with the topic of sexual assault. This isn’t some lame attempt to drive traffic to my blog by tapping into a popular social movement. That’s why I’m not using the hashtag or any other tactic to increase the visibility of the post. It’s just me, writing about something I care about, which is the entire point of this website.

On Monday, a Facebook friend boldly stated that she had not and would not participate in the “me too” movement. She meant to say that, sometimes, people don’t realize that their words qualify as harassment, and that without specific examples, we can’t correct them. But she also said, “just telling people you’ve been victimized doesn’t raise awareness.”

I disagreed.

And I think she missed the point. This movement isn’t simply about wolf whistles and “c’mere, honey”, though that’s part of it. My response received positive feedback, and so I share it here because I’m proud of what I wrote (lightly edited for this platform).


I write this as a man, and as a person who has never been sexually assaulted.

My opinion is based on women who have confided in me. Like the drunk woman who woke up naked with a man on top of her. Or the woman who lied about being on her period to avoid rape. Or the woman who kept silent for more than 20 years because she knew no one would believe her. Or the woman who blamed the rape on herself because she had a reputation for being easy.

Much like a crowd shining flashlights in the dark, this movement shows people they are not alone. That there are far more people than we ever thought. To show that such a thing might have hurt a person, but they did not let it defeat them.

I particularly disagree with the statement “we all know basically every woman has experienced” this. Regardless of whether “we all know”, the complacency of that argument is part of the problem. We still live in a culture where men and women blame rape on a woman’s attire. Or her job. Or because she is subservient to men. People dismiss “grabbing her by the p****” as locker room talk because his political affiliation says (R), when they’d give a (D) holy hell for saying the same thing.

However, this movement isn’t targeting the small-minded people, not really, because they will never change their minds. Nor is it seeking the blessing of the enlightened. I think there are many people who really aren’t aware of the size of this problem, and for that, I applaud the momentum behind this movement.

I also disagree that writing out the specifics on Facebook is a better approach. We should believe that people have been attacked without having to read the sensational details. There are myriad reasons victims don’t come forward, but recounting the attack shouldn’t be the price for my sympathy or belief.

I would have believed my friends if they had simply said, “Me too.”


It’s only a Facebook comment, and not intended to be high literature. But I believe in writing things that are important, things that connect people, and things that can make the world a better place.

I know you do, too.

–Mike


© Michael Wallevand, October 2017

How Do You Honor A Life?

This post was the hardest thing I’ve ever written, and I apologize if your heart breaks like mine.

I’d nearly forgotten.

It’s been eight years since the traumatic birth of our son. Benjamin spent 14 weeks in the hospital and needed oxygen and other breathing assistance even longer. With that much time in and out of hospitals, a family sees regular examples of how precious the miracle of life is. And how fragile.

When you emerge on the other side of your ordeal, you are stronger in many ways. You are grateful that your loved one has survived. You consider yourselves lucky because many families have had it worse. Unimaginably worse. Over time, your heart and mind are healed, but permanently damaged by some piece of emotional shrapnel you can never remove. Forevermore, when you see children suffering, that splinter of old anguish is a twisting knife in your heart.

It’s not something that many people discuss, and the closer you are to it, the less you try. Whether it’s the pain, the sadness, or the desire to talk about happier things, many of us don’t seek to have those uncomfortable conversations with anyone we know. Eight years ago I tried so share some of what I was seeing, but it was too sad and too depressing:  Things I Heard In The Hospital That Broke My Heart. I wrote that piece so I could always remember, and because I knew I’d want to forget.

Recently, I learned about the four-year-old son of my wife’s high school friend, and all the memories came crashing back.  Continue reading

Writing Your Goodbyes To A Colleague

This post is approximately 600 words.

In most of the jobs I’ve had, when someone leaves, we pass around a card to sign. Sometimes we chip in for a gift. Writing the perfect goodbye without getting sappy isn’t easy. At least, not for me.

DragonbardWhen I learned my manager was leaving, the wheels in my head started turning. We share a love of gaming, and it occurred to me that a custom mini from Hero Forge would be the perfect gift (I love their website and have designed figures based on my characters: Tildy and the Witch – and no, I’m not a spokesperson). My colleagues agreed and we all chipped in.

Unfortunately, he would be leaving before the figure arrived, and I didn’t want to give him an empty card. But as I stared at the rendering I’d created, my character began to breathe. With a little effort, I could bring him fully to life, borrowing some characteristics of my manager along the way. Being a fantasy writer, I easily whipped up 350 words in 30 minutes. Now I had something – and something special – to place into the envelope.


The Short Tale of Grashlor

Nine hundred ninety-nine years ago, a greyblight soulcaster stormed Dragonback’s shores, seeking vengeance on the firedrake wizard, Grashlor. During the previous Wintersfall, the dragon had killed the man’s thieving sister whilst defending his enchanted hoard. By the governance of Man and Dragon, the death was just, though laws matter little when viewed through the eyes of grief.  Continue reading

And Yet It Moves

This post is approximately 250 words, and today’s topic considers personal beliefs and human compassion.

galileo2Nearly 400 years ago, Galileo was forced to recant his statement that the Earth revolved around the Sun. Sometime later, as he stared into sky, and then looked at the ground, he said, “E pur si muove.”

And yet it moves.

He knew he had proven that a long-held belief, going back millennia, was incorrect. He challenged something every person in the world believed. When 350 million people believe something, it is an undeniable fact.

And yet it moves.

I recalled this story today, specifically those four words, when the debate on gender erupted again this morning. I read the words of people parroting science they didn’t understand to defend a belief they had never taken the time to question. I read hateful declarations by the small- and closed-minded. I read selfish protestations from people living comfortably within the embrace of societal acceptance.

Is human gender black and white? Have we already discovered all there is to know about gender and human physiology? I believe the answer to both is no, though it’s a surprisingly more complicated problem to solve than the movement of heavenly bodies, no offense to Galileo.

Perhaps it’s not so difficult a thing to understand, considering people from the Middle Ages were asked to believe that they lived on a planetary orb floating through space around a gigantic fiery ball of gas.

And yet it moves.

Just imagine what we’ll know 400 years from now.

–Michael


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© Michael Wallevand, July 2017