Tag Archives: word count

Published: Behind The Scenes (Feb 2017)

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Welcome to the February 2017 edition of Published: Behind the Scenes, where I talk about all the fun things that happen to get my book on the shelf.

If you missed the introduction post or the post from January, they can be found here and here.

Without further ado, see below!

February has been a rush (and I was all worried I’d have nothing much to share!). I got my first professional edit letter from my publisher. You know, ever. Which is a huge thing to begin with anyway, but then on top of that, it was developmental edits, which I have zilch experience with.

I don’t know if you’ve ever had developmental edits done with a professional editor, but I was surprised to realize that most of the work is done almost entirely from the outline. From the outline, the plot, stakes, and connections between scenes are all assessed to make sure that they all forwarded the plot and they’re not just a bunch of loosely connected points.

Which, in theory, seems straightforward.

(Why does it always so seem straightforward on paper or after the fact…)

The biggest complication to this whole process was that my outline was very unclear. Most of my themes and points were too vague or seemed unconnected, because I wasn’t writing out how they were connected or the details which made it relevant, which made it difficult to, you know, assess all of that. On top of that, since there’s a bit of a mystery element in the novel, I’d definitely not explained everything.

I know you’ve probably all heard this person, but seriously, don’t be mysterious when talking to your editor. Tell all the secrets. Get your point across. I didn’t even realize the things I hadn’t shared because I’m so used to them being secrets for books later on — but you need to tell your editor!

But overall, there was some definite face-palming on my end as I realized yet again… I hadn’t explained that… which was why everybody was so confused. I’ve always used outlines just as a general structure, and a way to jog my memory and keep me on path. I don’t know if I’ve ever actually written a detailed outline like what is actually called for in this situation.

But anyway.

The first run through of my outline mostly involved my editor and I getting on the same page of understanding. On top of everything else, I’ve been playing a little loose with the rules and structure of storytelling, so she gave me a crash course in understanding the basics.

To which I was like — but yeah I’m this AMAZING thing where I break the rules. Haaaa. Yeah right.

The biggest worry at the beginning is that there doesn’t seem to be enough at stake. I was relying on the intrigue of the world and all the questions I pose to drive the start… but that’s probably not going to be enough. There needs to be tension, a sort of deadline — not necessarily the world ending, you know, but something.

So, more stuff in the beginning, tension-related stuff. Which seems so simple and straightforward and I don’t know why I didn’t get that before. Probably because I was so focused on how cool I was using mystery and questions to drive parts of the plot.

So, the somewhat counterintuitive conclusion that came out of this: I need to write more. My 109k word novel needs more words.

To continue with the theme of my not explaining enough, my editor also thinks I started the book too far into my main character’s arc. The initial trigger, or catalyst, to make her this answers-driven rebellious intelligent fiend, is something that’s learned as the book progresses, but isn’t known from the beginning. My editor is concerned there’s too much explanation that needs to be written in the first chapter because of this. Mostly because I created a really complex world.

To which I’m like: but… but… I like my subtle hinting and clues for all the answers! (which isn’t a good enought answer, in case you were wondering)

But anyway. The result of all of this, is that I’m writing a prequel novella.

This prequel will show how my protagonist got to where she is in my first book: all the themes and important points that had to come together to form her after the catalyst of her sister’s death. It’s also going to introduce the world, taking the pressure off the first book to get everyone on the same page within the first chapter. We’re working through the outline of that as well (hey, I’m learning how to be a plotter and write from an outline!), and I should be starting actual writing on it in the next few weeks.

Some part of me feels the prequel is redundant, that everything is already said in the first book, at least mentioned if not explained. But I’m also discovering (well, building) a story that’s a lot bigger than what I’d initially had in my head, and it’s giving me time to build the world out with more clarity.

If this prequel definitely happens, it’s going to be weird releasing it first versus the actual book. I’m definitely having anxiety it won’t be interesting enough, that releasing a novella first instead of a full length novel as my first book ever is bizarre. But that’s probably just anxiety about releasing anything anyway.

For fun, I’d like to share the progress that my outline has gone through so far. Just to provide a little context to what I’m talking about.

This is the first chapter in the outline originally:

Chapter One:

The book begins with Fairian sneaking out of the house. It’s obvious she’s waiting for something, and she gets attacked, and then saved by Daimyn. Excited by the new lead, Fairian asks questions. He warily answers before warning her off coming out at night, and eventually knocking her out in an attempt to scare her.

As you can tell, there’s not much there. It made perfect sense to me, because I have all the themes and connections in my head. And here’s what it is now:

Chapter One

Fairian sneaks out of the house to find a creature – now that she’s in the new city of Farfalla, which is swamped in intrigue and mystery, she thinks she may have luck getting answers about her sister’s death. Mixed with descriptions of the city, there are brief mentions of backstory that give a glimpse into world structure, family life, and how long she’s been on this quest.

She gets attacked by a strigoi, and ‘saved’ by a mysterious man. While she’s peeved about the loss of the strigoi, she realizes that this man knows something, and asks questions. He warily answers a few questions before warning her off her search and eventually knocking her out in an attempt to scare her.

I imagine the first chapter will go through further edits, but for now, it’s clearer. I’m itching to get into the actual content of the first chapter instead of just talking about the content… but clarifying on what the chapter needs to be is helpful, I will admit.

After the first chapter, there’s some change to the plot itself. Because the second chapter needs to further tension and get the plot going with a goal (my original goal not quite ‘big’ enough), the original chapter two was too slow. This is besides the fact that the outline was, again, not nearly clear enough in what aspects, tensions, and themes are being developed out at that point.

So here’s the second chapter initially:

Chapter Two:

Fairian wakes up in her own bed, her maid announcing her new martial arts teacher was arriving. She meets Mr. Kearney and he agrees to teach her. Afterwards, her best friend Tiffany and her decide to go shopping: this reveals more about Farfallan history and make-up, and Fairian mentions more on the Environmental crisis.

How does that even explain anything? Seriously, it seems so obvious now that this outline is NOT clear enough.

Now, alongside clarification, there’s a new aspect to drive the plot forward:

Chapter Two

Fairian wakes up in her own bed, and decides the Mr. Mysterious from last night must know things, and she’s going to track him down and beat the answers out of him if she has to. She interviews with Mr. Kearney, a local martial artist, who agrees with teach her. It becomes obvious she’s been taking defense lessons for a while, in response to wanting to be able to protect herself. While it seems her father is reluctantly supportive of this, her mother makes it obvious that it was a BIG battle to even have an interview – and she’s upset about Fairian’s new instructor, thinking the move to Farfalla would end that ‘unladylike hobby.’

At lunch Fairian sees an article in the newspaper that reminds her of what happened when Fairian and her sister were taken. Her mother nitpicks at Fairian’s clothes, posture, attitude, etc (probably exacerbated because of losing the battle about the martial arts instructor) until in frustration Fairian agrees to go shopping for clothes appropriate to this part of the world — privately thinking she can sneak away and track down more information about the news article she saw. Their family ward and her best friend, Tiffany, comes along with. The drive to the market gives a glimpse into some environmental history and Farfallan culture.

Putting up with her mother’s ministrations for only a while, Tiff and Fairian manage to sneak away and head to the Central Library to search the news of the past few years. She finds out that many people have had strange psychological breaks where they supposedly saw their nightmares come to life, and they’re all sent to the same mental hospital. Starkly reminded of her past, Fairian sets getting into the hospital as her next objective.

As you can see, that was a heck of a lot clearer. Also, the issue with the people stalked by their nightmares and the mental hospital was originally a plot point much further in the book. Since a more pressing goal was needed to get the plot moving more quickly (beyond finding out who the mysterious character is in the first chapter), I moved it up and changed it around a bit. So far I feel pretty happy with it.

I’m having brief struggles with feeling possessive over my story and like it might be being changed too much. But, I will admit, finding my own ways to fix whatever problem is there has been a tad fun. And seeing improvements in my manuscript has been neat.

It’s a balance, between sticking true to the story you want to tell and letting more knowledgable people guide you on what needs to be changed. It’s definitely been tense and a little nerve-wracking as my baby is being pulled apart and put back together, but good overall.

Thoughts? Questions? Comments? Have any of you gone through developmental edits like this? What was your experience?

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Swiss Cheese Manuscript

Well my NaNoWriMo manuscript looks like swiss cheese right now with all of the holes in it. No, not plot holes – literal holes in the… plot.

(Okay, ‘plot holes’ is misleading. I’m talking about holes in the linear A-Z structure of getting from beginning to end. Holes in the… what else would you call it? GAH)

Whatever, the point is, the manuscript isn’t finished. There’s a decent chunk in the middle and the ending stretch is riddled with them — and I haven’t actually written the ending either.

Pfff – did you think it would be done, at only 50k words? No way, that’s like, half done in my world.

*cough* Anyway…

I started with 6610 words and ended up writing 62k. Sooo… the book is almost 79k words right now. I’ll probably add 10k more. (I’m repeating myself from my last blog post — moving on)

really don’t want to work on this manuscript anymore. What is wrong with me? I’m right at the finish line — the exciting part, it’s all coming together — and instead I’m daydreaming about other stuff. And, my main character for my INITIUM series is throwing images of naked men into my consciousness she’s so annoyed I’ve been ignoring her.

(Don’t ask… because I don’t even really know what she’s talking about yet)

Which is actually pretty awesome, because I’d been feeling a little drained from writing that series. This has been a great break. I think I scared my characters into talking to me again.

Now, I have one last thing I need to finish, a fun short story project that needs to be done mid-December… then it’ll be back to torturing Fairian and Daimyn. I’ve been mulling over this book three problem, and I’ve got some devious ideas…

But back to the point of this blog post. My November project needs some work before it’s even a real draft yet. I think I know what’s bugging me — I’m not used to writing in third person, and my main character isn’t compelling enough — but I’m going to let it sit for a little while. I need to do some research and devise a better game plan. This manuscript is definitely a lot more craft and less… intuitiveness. It’s good practice for me, but not something I’m quite used to.

NaNoWriMo is great for getting the words out — but they’re not always the best of words.

I hope you all had a great create NaNoWriMo 2016. And if you didn’t get to 50k — whatever. You still wrote, you got a little farther in your novel. That’s an accomplishment. We’re all proud of you.


Drive and Depth: Debating My Least Favorite Writing Rule

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I’m coming to the uncomfortable conclusion that I need to cut a lot from the second in the series I’m writing. I continually waffle back and forth depending on the day, of course. But there is a thread of truth in the idea that I’ve written content in this book that doesn’t drive the plot forward.

Does is portray intriguing characterization? Definitely. Rich emotion and relationships? Oh, yes. Interesting dynamics and world building? You betcha. Forwarding the particular thread of plot for this novel? Well…

It is the second in the series. So some parts of me say, there’s leeway! People will care about these characters now (as it is the second book), so they’ll want to read about these fun interplays that delve deeper into the dynamics of the world and how the characters fit into it (and each other)! Then I’ll bring in the real clincher for this novel, and off we go.

But the more I read, the more I get the feeling I really need to start cutting. Or, somehow, shorten the scenes I’ve written. There seems to be a lot of advice being churned out — or maybe I’m just now paying attention to it — about how every scene needs to drive the plot forward, to build on the scene before it.

I think I’m pretty good on the building from previous scenes. If the difficult of extracting one of my scenes without collapsing part of the story is anything to go on, I’m good at that part. But not all the my scenes necessarily drive the plot forward.

But then part of me wonders — what does that really mean, drive the plot forward? Sure, you’ve got the main storyline of what occurs that hopefully follows a theme, maybe teaches a lesson, hitting upon human moments and concerns. But then there’s this whole nebulous character part of it.

Characters are what drive the story. Characters are what make readers actually care about the story. But to have characters, you have to have characterization, growth, interplays and dynamics. Which I absolutely adore, both as a reader and a writer.

So how much characterization is too much? How much of the book can be character focused, and how much solely plot?

I know the aim is to weave both of these together, so they seamlessly slide into each other and catapult the whole story forward. So maybe my real problem is learning how to do that more effectively.

But that can’t be quite right, because I still have 148k words on this mammoth of a book, and even if I did still start the ‘action’ earlier and weaved everything else in later, that’d still be the word count. So I’m back to — too many scenes that involve just characterization.

Which brings me to my second complaint of the rule that all scenes must move the plot forward.

When I started writing, I was fascinated by making everything real. Real emotions, real interactions, real situations (well, as real as you can get with dragons flying around). While I’m not as obsessed with it now as I was then, there’s still a part of me that yearns for a plot to not be so straightforward.

Real life has dead ends. Clues that aren’t clues. Unfortunate bunny trails. Long walks that turn into long conversations that no one quite remembers fully, but they know what it felt like. Boredom. Confusion. Unclear motives. Self-loss.

I’m not advocating long drawn out scenes about doing dishes or being stuck in traffic for an hour. That’s boring. There’s a difference between relaying boredom and being boring. But at some point, I get bored with scenes that do nothing but drive forward. Life is fuller than that. Life has more mystery and more depth.

I want to stop and savor. Enjoy the world I’m immersed in. Really get to know the characters, and feel what they feel. Pick apart their minds and their motivations, and curl up inside their heads.

But. Too much can mean a story that drags.

So. Where is the line, do you think? Between plot and character; between drive and depth? Where do you draw your line in this tug of war?


NaNoWriMo Update: Slow and Steady

After a week of writing on a story I’ve been working on for almost a year, I can already tell this NaNoWriMo is different than the last one.

I’m uncertain if that’s just the nature of a different story, or because I’m writing under pressure for a story that’s so dear to me (what I talked about in my last post). While last year I wrote in great swaths and then took minor breaks, this year I’ve written consistently almost every day in smaller sections. I’ve been really having to push myself to write every day. It’s a strangely novel feeling, deliberately setting aside and creating writing time, versus taking time I have available and writing for as long as I keep steam.

The first few days I struggled, partially due to my mood at the time, and partially due to the difficulty of the scene. But as the week progressed I’ve gained some momentum, and got ahead of the game where I could. Last night I ended up writing several hundred words beyond where I needed to be, but will try to continue that today.

Alright, I must be off to continue on this adventure.

I hope all of you are having fun and doing awesome! And hey, if you feel like it, come be my writing buddy!


NaNoWriMo Update: A.D.D. Brain

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As most of you know, we are pretty much past the halfway point of National Novel Writing Month and must keep on typing. It’s rather interesting for me, writing this novel that I’m not in love with, to be continually pushing myself to keep clunking out those words. I really don’t have a problem with length (unless you look at it from the other direction, where I can’t keep things short to save my life), but since I’m testing myself to write from a male POV and pushing myself to write every day, it’s turning into a really neat learning experience.

Okay, so I haven’t been perfect about writing every day. We’ve got three days here where I didn’t write:

NaNoWriMo Word timeline 2014-11-15

… but I’ve stayed ahead of the curve (or on top of the line, har de har har) so far, so it’s okay.

But it’s been really neat to see what I do under pressure. I thought my creativity was going to wilt, but I seem to be decently balancing pushing myself and knowing when it’s time to quit or break.

The problem that is arising, at least for week two of this adventure, is my jokingly-called ADD brain. Instead of being focused on my current project, I’m having random vivid moments to write on other stories (particularly the one that I almost-finished right before I started this). The advice emails from the NaNoWriMo website are about how the starting excitement fades out by week two and it becomes more of a struggle to push through. That might be part of it, since I deliberately chose an old story I hadn’t done much with and don’t “love.”

Though, I do like what’s happening with this story so far. It’s interesting to write just for getting words out and completion, instead of because the “passion-hot” drive has seized hold. It’s a little more clinically written, and I have minor worry that it isn’t very exciting. But that might be because I’m writing it from more of a distance than my other stories. It’ll be interesting to see how it looks when the editing process comes around, after this is all done.

Anyway. Good luck to everyone out there, keep up the good work, and have fun!


NaNoWriMo Update: Pantser, Plotter, Linear, Jumper

NaNoWriMo 2014-11-05

After spending the first almost two days of National Novel Writing Month doing pretty much nothing, I sat down at about 9 at night on the second day and wrote almost 2,000 words until about 2 in the morning. Then I got up the next (later) morning and wrote for a long time more until I hit just a little over 9,000.

Hey, whatever works, right? Yesterday I got my total to over 12,000, and today I’m moseying along so far. But I figured that I would say hi to the blog-o-sphere since I haven’t yet, and I’m doing good on my word counts.

There’s a big discussion, as all of you know, about the difference between a “pantser” (writing by the seat of your pants) or a “plotter” (meticulously plotting out everything and then going for it). Also, there’s the writer who writes the book religiously from beginning to end (linear writer) vs. someone who jumps around in time depending on whatever strikes their fancy (time jumper). I’m a little of both. I tend to be a pantser more than a plotter, but I’ve recently been doing a lot more plotting. And my first book series I worked on I DID NOT SKIP SECTIONS. I wrote out everything very carefully in order. But the second series (the first of which is the one that’s almost done), I jumped around a lot and then filled in sections. I still jump around, to scenes later in the series, to write them out and then fill out here and there. It’s like a bizarre, digital patchwork quilt that I haven’t really quite made fit yet and keep throwing out bits here and there.

Anyway, the point of this is, for NaNoWriMo, I’ve been been doing a little of all of it. I’ve pushed myself to return to my linear roots a bit because I feel that sometimes I get lazy with time jumping. And I will admit I’m doing a lot of pantsing, which is hard not to do when deciding to do NaNoWriMo at the last minute. But the plot has been evolving, as it does, and I’ve been working on filling out stuff in the future and having an aim and direction to follow. I have my plotting developing as my story develops. Ha!

Otherwise, writing from a male perspective is different and fun. Not sure I’ve got it down, but I’m enjoying the challenge – while also trying not to subscribe to too many gender stereotypes.