6 Things I Learned While Writing the First Draft

July 16, 2014 § Leave a comment

writers tearsAccording to the date stamp on the first outline I created for my novel, I began writing it on December 13, 2012. I began writing the first draft the following February. And on July 6 (i.e., about a week and a half ago), I finished the first draft. It’s 78,403 words (according to Word) and 406 pages typed, double-spaced. I think that’s a pretty good length for a first draft; previous first drafts have weighed in around the 50,000-word mark, so this one feels beefy.

Anyway, if we take December 13, 2012 as the start date, that means I’ve been working on this for a year and a half. I didn’t think it would take that long, to be honest. At the beginning of last December, I thought I’d finish before the end of the year. At the beginning of February, I thought I’d finish it by the end of that month. And here we are. Best laid plans, and all that. I learned a few things along the way—some of it from others, some from the experience of doing it. I thought I’d share in case any of it helps you, but if I’m being honest, it’s really so I can come back and remind myself of all this before I begin my next book. « Read the rest of this entry »

Writing about Reading: The Miernik Dossier

June 1, 2014 § Leave a comment

I read this book after it received high praise from Olen Steinhauer, whose spy novels I love. I did not love the Miernik Dossier, however.

The Miernik Dossier, by Charles McCarry, purports to be a collection of documents describing a “typical operation” for the CIA. The subject of this operation is Tadeusz Miernik, a Polish national who has been called back to his home country from Geneva (where he works for the WRO) and fears he will be imprisoned by the secret police if he returns. (The novel is set in the “in the middle years of the Cold War,” although no firm year is given.) He has requested his assignment with the WRO be extended, which has raised suspicions among the CIA and other intelligence agencies that Miernik is actually a Soviet spy. The novel follows the events of the investigation into Miernik and the surveillance of his activities.

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Writing about Reading Double Feature: The Martian and Saga

May 22, 2014 § Leave a comment

It’s fitting that I’m cramming two book reviews into one post because I read both The Martian and Saga at the same time. I started The Martian first, then got Volume 1 of Saga, so I paused and devoured it in an hour. And I was hooked, so I got Volumes 2 and 3, devouring them as they arrived and going back to The Martian in between.

That pretty much tells you how awesome both are.

I’m a one-book-at-a-time kinda guy. I get too confused if I try to read more than one at a time, but since Saga is a graphic novel and The Martian is a traditional novel, I figured I could keep them straight. What I didn’t count on is that they would both be some freakin’ amazing that I couldn’t get enough of either one.

Let’s start with The Martian, by newcomer Andy Weir. Weir is a software engineer and has been professionally since he was fifteen. He’s also “a lifelong space nerd and a devoted hobbyist of subjects like relativistic physics, orbital mechanics, and the history of manned spaceflight.” You know, normal everyday hobbies. So yeah, Andy Weir is a genius.

But he’s also a damned good storyteller. Combine the two, and it makes for one very compelling novel.

The book is, in a nutshell, about Mark Watney, an astronaut who is left for dead when his crew bugs out during a storm on Mars. Problem is, he’s not dead, and they’ve left him with no way to call for help. But he does have a) a working habitat, b) enough food and supplies to survive for a while (but not until the next Mars mission arrives), c) a very good brain, and d) enough time to figure out how to stay alive until the next mission arrives in four years. Oh, and he also has a wickedly sardonic sense of humor.

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Joss Whedon talks about being prolific, and you should listen

April 23, 2014 § 1 Comment

joss-whedon-spReal quick: This popped up today and I read it and think it’s very much worth sharing. So go read HOW TO BE PROLIFIC: GUIDELINES FOR GETTING IT DONE FROM JOSS WHEDON, because it’s worth it. 

I have thoughts on this, and I also have a post brewing on what it’s really like to complete your novel’s first draft (spoiler: it’s HARD), but right now I’m focusing on getting the damn book finished.

In the meantime, listen to Joss. He’s way smarter than me, anyway.

Writing about Reading: Red Phone Box

April 13, 2014 § Leave a comment

“Too many cooks spoil the broth,” the old saying goes, and for the most part, that’s true—especially when you’re writing a novel-length story. Novels are usually written best by one or two authors; more than that, and it tends to turn into a jumbled mess.

That is precisely why Red Phone Box is so impressive. Edited by Salome Jones, Red Phone Box is a “darkly magical story cycle” written by 29 different authors—and for the most part, it works.

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Writing about Reading: The Goldfinch

March 18, 2014 § Leave a comment

Before I’d read a page of Donna Tartt’s newest book, The Goldfinch, I saw several reviewers call the novel “Dickensian,” and so going in was already prejudiced to consider the book in that light. But even if I hadn’t been so influenced, The Goldfinch would have evoked David Copperfield and Oliver Twist almost immediately.

This is not a good thing.

Don’t get me wrong; I love Dickens. David Copperfield and A Tale of Two Cities are two of my favorite books of all time. In fact, I credit the latter has having a particular influence on my moral compass. Dickens’ novels deserve all the praise and continual study given them by literature professors.

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[INFOGRAPHIC] How to Be Productive

March 5, 2014 § Leave a comment

If you’re like me, you never have enough time to do the things you really want to do; i.e., write more. It seems like every time I sit down to write, I think of a dozen things that need doing. So I’m always looking for ways to maximize the too-few hours per week that I can carve out for writing.

I think I’ve seen the infographic below before, but I came across it today and decided to share it here, on my much neglected blog, because I think there’s a lot of good ideas here. And because I want to revisit it every once in a while as a reminder to myself, which is much more likely to happen if I post it here rather than chuck it into the mountain of links in my bookmark folder. Click to embiggen it:

How To Be Productive

by annavital.
Explore more infographics like this one on the web’s largest information design community – Visually.

(A tip of the hat to GalleyCat, which is where I found this today.)

As for a real update, I’m still trying to finish the first draft of the book. I passed the 64,000-word mark this week, but I’m finding it difficult to get to the Big Moment. I think I’m going to have just vomit up that scene and accept that it’s (as the infographic says) “better done than perfect.”

I just finished reading Iain Banks’ novel Matter, which I didn’t blog about because I think I’ve learned everything that Banks can teach me about writing. I keep reading his Culture series because they’re very good and I’ve noticed I write more when I’m reading a Culture novel than when I’m not. Anyway, it’s another Banks book that is slow to start, but really good when it takes off. Unfortunately, even when the story is rocketing along, the author stops for long-winded digressions and pages of description. I found myself skimming a lot, just to get back to the story.

So that’s where I’ve been in a nutshell. Hopefully, my next post will be announcing that I’ve finished the first draft. And hopefully, that will be soon.

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