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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Writing Exercise #8 – Whimsical Horror

This is post is approximately 650 words, many of them silly nonsense, but limned with a sinister tone, I hope.

I like fun and I like whimsy, and I like them mixed with horror. In the appropriate proportions, of course. Without the proper balance, a story is either too dark or too goofy. It’s something I’m managing in certain parts of my current manuscript.

I think this penchant comes from fairy tales I read in childhood. They’re cautionary stories, of course: stay in bed, eat your peas, don’t lie! They all promise horrible fates to children who fail in some regard. Take Little Red Riding Hood, who was devoured by a slavering wolf before a woodcutter sliced open the beast’s belly to free her.

In deliberate contrast to the horrors of the story, the pages often featured colorful illustrations of cherubic tots venturing obliviously into danger. After a few similar stories, we all knew something bad was coming, despite the innocence of the art. And we loved it. As kids, we were practically watching them through half-covered eyes, gleefully anticipating their demise as we imagined their chubby little legs carrying them toward certain doom.  Continue reading

Tighten Up Your Writing #5

This post is approximately 500 words, and it argues in favor of using many words, even when a single one would suffice.

Recently, I was reviewing a passage in my manuscript that reminded me of a word I’d forgotten. I’m an English language geek, so I like collecting words, even if I don’t always put them on display. Rather, many are crammed into the attic in dusty boxes sealed with cheap tape (feel free to analyze whether this is a metaphor for my brain). In this case, I hadn’t used the term, but it did motivate me to reacquaint myself with it.

It’s a word I think many people will appreciate because it describes something we love: the distinctive smell that follows the rain. The scent is evocative, both to the head and the heart. If you’re like me, you take walks to fully enjoy the experience.

after the rain

PETRICHOR

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Writing Update: Oct 1, 2018

This post is approximately 400 words, which is about 4 words for every day since I last posted here.

This probably isn’t the first time I’ve said this: it’s hard to keep a blog going (especially for me, a person who likes unfocused research and differing outlets for creativity). Given the choice – as many writers are – I’d rather spend the time on the manuscript than the blog. Honestly, I didn’t do much of either kind of writing over the summer.

From a high school graduation and sending a kid to college, to lazy weekends at the lake, to re-discovering Warhammer modelling, to getting a wife and second son off to school, well, there have been a distractions a’plenty.

Work’s been crazy, too. Some of it good, some of it (checks Corporatespeak Thesaurus) sub-optimal. More on that for some future date. Beyond that, current politics in America are distracting as hell, but I’m certainly not touching that tonight.

That’s a long list of factors, and some would rightly name them excuses. But c’est la vie.

Continue reading

An illustratration [sic] for the importance of proofing

This post is approximately 600 words, some of which are likely misspelled because that’s what happens when writers talk about typos.

Holy lexicon, do I hate misspellings. When it comes to my own writing, I’m a firm believer in self-flagellation. And I know there’s a special place in dictionary purgatory for self-proclaimed grammar perfectionists and those people who allow typos into published books.

Regardless of how much you’ve typed, or how fast you do it, typos are a way of life. When it comes to typing, I’m a cheetah with 30 years’ experience: bursts of speed followed by periods of rest and reflection. If I’m particularly inspired, I probably reach 120 wpm.

kermit-writing

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Writing Update: Dec 12, 2017

This post is approximately 700 words.

On December 10, 2015, overwhelmed and underwater in life, I sat at the keyboard to begin writing the first book in The Lost Royals series. It had been years since I’d seriously written, but I recall how quickly the inspiration blossomed again.

Two days ago, the second anniversary passed by, unremarked. When I realized this today, I knew I needed to refocus myself.  Of late, my head has been so far up my own rear end with responsibilities and disappointment and anger and frustration and regret, that I’d taken my eye off the ball. Off the work. Instead taking the opportunity to reflect on how far I’d come – as I’d done last year – I simply forgot about the date.

But at least I did some writing.

My intellectual side knew it wasn’t a big deal, but my emotional side Continue reading

Things I Did After Sitting Down To Write This Morning

This post is approximately 400 words, and likely sounds familiar to other writers.

Since the dawn of humankind, storytellers have been shaking their fists at the sky, cursing the suddenly important things that got in the way of the work. I believe they shouted something like this:

O, procrastination! Thou art a foul contra-muse who plague-eth my writing time and sendeth me on unnecessary and irrelevant paths.

That might not be a direct quote from writers of yore, but I think it’s pretty close (I’ll probably start using it myself). To be clear, I’m not talking about the demands of daily life (e.g. human interaction, food, or taking out the frickin’ garbage because you can smell it from the other room). Rather, I’m talking about those things that should be put off until the writing session has concluded. BUT OMG, THEY SUDDENLY CANNOT WAIT! THE WORLD’S FATE DEPENDS ON THAT THING BEING DONE RIGHT NOW!

Bad writer.

Stitch spray

It happened earlier this week. As annoying as it always is, Tuesday was particularly disheartening because I’d taken a week off and it was one of my writing days. Consequently, my output for the day suffered.

But not all was lost. I’ve worked to make up the time and the experience gave me the topic for today’s blog. Check out my list of obviously world-saving endeavors:

  • Got coffee
  • Checked Facebook
  • Watched cool acoustic version of Take On Me by a-ha
  • Listened to Prince’s I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man
  • Polished and scheduled blog post
  • Reviewed website stats
  • Added formatting to older posts for consistency
  • Got more coffee
  • Researched WordPress Premium
  • Chastised self
  • Took notes for writing this post
  • Put this post idea aside for a couple days (finally on-task!)

Morning well spent, eh? Oh, well.

Many of these things are important to the job – especially coffee – but most could be done outside my scheduled writing time. I do have some tricks that keep my train of thought from derailing, but they failed me on Tuesday. I’ve been doing writing of one form or another for twenty years, and still, I am plague-eth.

As you see at the end of the list, however, I pulled my morning out of the nosedive. But it took awhile and more effort than it should have. I consider this post a visual reminder that it will likely happen it won’t ALWAYS happen and those days are good indeed.

Good luck with your writing!

–Mike


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

© Michael Wallevand, October 2017