Friday, September 29, 2017

HF Novel Update - 9/29/17 (Day 13)

I'm very close to the end of this book and can see everything else that happens so at this point I'm almost on autopilot. What's strange is, I wrote a lot of words today (6,250) but now that feels like chump change because I'm comparing it to what I've done on other days this week. 6,000 plus words is really good and instead of feeling ho-hum about it (funny how quickly we get used to things), I should keep in mind the long game.

If I wrote 6,000 words a day, 5 days a week, that would be 1,560,000 words per year. Novel lengths vary by genre, but let's say on average my books will be 75,000 words long.

That's 21 novels a year, rounding up.

This weekend will prove challenging. I won't have any large blocks of time to work and pretty much will only be able to write after the kiddies go to bed. So I am not going in to the next 48 hours with any expectations. I hope I can write another 10k -15k over two days and finish the book off, but realistically the first draft won't be done until Monday night. That would only give me 6 days to edit my first heroic fantasy novel, which sounds really daunting.

But hey, I got myself into this mess so I can't really complain.

And tonight's winning numbers in the Pennsylvania Lottery are:

Drafting: 4.5 hours
Daily Word Count: 6,250
Total Word Count: 86,186

Thursday, September 28, 2017

HF Novel Update - 9/28/17 (Day 12)

Too tired to type much here, cumulative fatigue just catching up with me. I've been putting in a lot of hours, about 50% of them coming after the kiddies go to bed so I'm averaging about 5-6 hours of sleep per night. When I was in college that was par for the course, but these days that just ain't enough.

Here are the numbers:

Drafting: 6 hours
Daily Word Count: 9,900
Total Word Count: 79,936

I've got about 10k - 15k words left to write leading up to the climax, and the big finale itself will probably run about 5k. So this first draft is trending toward 100k, which is good. After a tight edit, I'll probably chop off about 5k, I'm guessing. I can already think of a couple things I planted earlier in the story that never came back up later (and I don't really need them to at this point).

Gentlemen, to bed! And sleep the sleep of a thousand martyrs!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

HF Novel Update 9/27/17 (Day 11)

Another huge day.

My good friend and fellow author Nate Green has a saying, "Writing is inertial."

Truer words were never spoken.

Today I wrote over 14k words! That's ridiculous but it didn't feel unusual to me while it was happening. It just flowed.

Here's why I think this happened. I've moved into the final third-ish of the book. The end of the dreaded 2nd act is close. Everything is coming together, and at this point I understand the characters much better than I did at the beginning of the story. I know what they're going to say and how they're going to react to situations without having to think about it too too much.

At the same time, I got to introduce two new characters who are a lot of fun to write and who added fresh conflicts to the story. So at this point, I can see the ending, I know how I'm going to get there, and all the characters in the story are on a collision course that will culminate in the climax. I feel like I've crested the hill of this story and now am running downhill as fast as I can, almost out of control. At this point I can't write quickly enough and, as long as I stay out of my own way, this first draft will be done very soon.

To my buddy Nate's point, WRITING IS INERTIAL.

The more you do it, the more you do it. The less you do it, the less you do it.

Now, that's an oversimplification of course. I don't know if I could maintain this pace for an extended period of time, though if you believe the stories this is what many pulp writers did in the early to mid 20th century. And I happen to know that many indie authors (who tend to be the more successful ones) do this as well. So it's been done before and it's still being done now.

Here are the numbers:

Drafting: 9 hours (three big chunks of writing time)
Daily Word Count: 14,029
Total Word Count: 70,036

New Thriller Coming This Week!

I talk about The Board, in my latest YouTube video. I'll hit publish on that book tonight, and then Amazon will do its thing behind the scenes, which usually takes a day or two before the book is live in their store.

Here's the cover for The Board:

Writing this book was such a great, fun experience for me, because I got to co-author the novel with Jim Gott, a good friend and former work colleague. The oh-my-god-why-isn't-this-already-a-movie premise was Jim's fabulous idea. It's high concept and we feel has the potential to really break out.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

HF Novel Update - 9/26/17

Monster day today.

After deciding to scrap PLOT DEVELOPMENT yesterday, I was freed up to get on with the story. I managed to write my way through two set pieces and am now halfway through the 2nd act of the story. Our hero has made some mistakes and has grown, and I just gave him his first mini-victory.

Now the story gets really interesting. We meet new characters and the overwhelming force of the enemy is closing in. Hero has to assume a larger and larger role among the people he's protecting, and I'm chomping at the bit to get to his Cave Moment, where he confronts a mythical monster. All of this is leading me to the end, which I can almost see now. I don't have all the details yet, but I can feel the general way to get there.

Here are the numbers:

Drafting: 6 hours
Daily Word Count: 9,007
Total Word Count: 56,007

Monday, September 25, 2017

HF Novel Update 9/25/17

So I ended up deciding to scrap PLOT DEVELOPMENT. After re-outlining the remainder of the book, I realized how much story there was left to tell and that PLOT DEVELOPMENT wasn't adding much, didn't factor as much into the larger story as I had previously thought, and was just slowing me down. Put another way, I'd invented a problem in the story that didn't need to be there.

The deadliest trap is the one we set for ourselves, as Raymond Chandler once quipped.

That being said, I had to spend a significant chunk of time figuring out what had to go earlier in the story, what had to be rewritten, and where I could pick up from. The numbers below are broad estimates of how I spent my time today in the overall creative process. They're probably not even close to matching the reality, because rewrites bled over into new content, which bled over back into outlining, which ... you get the idea.

And, because I was both cutting words and writing new ones today, I'm ballparking my daily word count. The total word count is an approximation also, because there are still things to fix, rearrange, and probably cut.

Okay, disclaimers out of the way, here are the numbers:

Pre-Production: 1 hour
Rewrites: 2 hours
Drafting: 2.5 hours
Daily Word Count: ~5,000
Total Word Count: ~47,000

HF Novel Update - 9/24/17

Yesterday I got some words in but I'm not sure I'll keep any of them.

As my characters headed to PLOT DEVELOPMENT, I began to question my decision to send them there. I felt the story was losing momentum and that I was also putting an unnecessary complication in front of them - since there was still plenty of story left to tell, jam-packed with more and more conflict.

Even worse? The obstacle they were about to face was shaping up to be very similar to the NEXT PLOT DEVELOPMENT, so everything ground to a halt as I struggled to come up with ways to make THIS THING different from THAT LATER THING.

I couldn't come up with a solution yesterday. After I woke up this morning, while engaged in some mindless activity (why does it always happen like this) I think I figured out what I'm going to do, and it will allow me to keep most of what I wrote yesterday but damn I hate this feeling. I'm getting to the dreaded halfway point of the story, that strange and daunting space where I know how I want the last quarter of the book to go but don't yet have all the answers for how I'm going to get there.

Here are the numbers. Hopefully I keep most of these words so the day isn't a total write-off.

Pre-Production: 0
Drafting: 3.5 hours
Daily Word Count: 4,636
Total Word Count: 42,007


When it felt like I was just spinning my wheels last night, I shifted gears to something else. Rather than just get frustrated without little to show for all the hair-pulling and teeth-gnashing, I focused on editing The Stalked Girl, the second book in my new mystery series. The great news? That one's ready to go now and I don't have to think about it. It's up for pre-order now on Zon.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

HF Novel Update - 9/23/17

The stars must have been in alignment yesterday ... or something.

Because it's the weekend and I have no specific time carved out for work, I did not give myself a word count goal yesterday (and won't today either). But I managed to write periodically throughout the day. It helped that the kids entertained themselves for two different long blocks of time. That doesn't always happen.

I've ended up building a lot of momentum with this story and now I'm trying to use that to my advantage. Nearing the halfway point of the novel, I've only got four or five major turns in the story left to figure out. A lot still has to happen, but the pacing of the book so far feels right so I can see this coming in around 90k. So far, I haven't been plagued by any big problems with the plot or characters. I will round them all out a little bit more during the editing because by then I'll understand the whole story much better.

Anyway, here are the updates for yesterday:

Pre-Production: 1 hour (while at the playground with the kiddies, I thought a lot about the scenes I wanted to write)
Drafting: 5 hours
Daily Word Count: 6,998
Total Word Count: 37,371

Friday, September 22, 2017

HF Novel Update - 9/22/17

Had a really productive day today and now am too tired to blog in detail about it.

September 22nd

Pre-Production: 0
Drafting: 6 hours
Daily Word Count: 10,135
Total Word Count: 30, 273

What slowed me down today? Nothing. If I had more time to write, I could have gotten more done. I'm well into the 2nd act of this story now. The hero has crossed the threshold. It will be difficult to get in a lot of words this weekend as I plan to spend my time with the fam. I would love to be at 40k come Monday, but that's probably not realistic. I'll take whatever I can get this weekend and then hit the ground running next week. Not sure I'll have any updates tomorrow or Sunday.


In other exciting news, The Dead Girl reached #26 on the free list for all Amazon today. Very excited about that. It switches back to paid tomorrow. I'm hoping readers like it and pre-order book 2 in that series.

HF Novel Update - 9/21/17

This is going to sound ridiculous, but I tried giving up caffeine and this affected my output. Normally I will get a couple thousand words after the kids go to bed, but last night I zonked out not long after they did so I lost some time to work.

I might get back on the caffeine. Probably wasn't the smartest idea to try to give it up while in the midst of a 21 day novel challenge on my first heroic fantasy. Ah well.

September 21st

Pre-Production: 0
Drafting: 3.5 hours
Daily Word Count: 5,121
Total Word Count: 20,138

What slowed me down? I wrote a surprise attack scene and an escape scene today, which you would think should go really fast. These two events are the end of the 1st act, serving as a major turning point. Loads of action here, lots of characters, opportunities for great dialog, this should have been easy writing. But it wasn't.

Here's why I think I struggled. I had a general idea about I wanted to happen in the story: Hero joins the battle, Hero kills a few bad guys, Hero finds and rescues the children, Hero flees to safety. It's a pretty basic formula with each beat leading to the next naturally. But then the million little questions started popping up.

How much time should Hero be in the midst of battle?
Should he kill anybody?
How do I get Hero and Wizard to meet, without either one ending up dead?
What is everybody else doing?
Can I introduce 2 or 3 new characters during a battle?

Again, I'm not sure I could have anticipated every single question that would arise but probably a little more planning on my part would have reduced them.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

HF Novel Update 9/20/17

I had one of those unusual days where I didn't expect to get much done, but ended up getting a ton of words. Funny how expectations work sometimes.

The same thing happens to me at the gym. There are mornings where I feel awful, run-down, and weak, but I go in anyway because I can only get there at certain times and on certain days. And you know what happens sometimes? Those why-the-hell-am-I-even-here days end up being my best ones. I PR'ed on my deadlift a couple months back on such a day, where I was stiff as hell and exhausted just from walking into the gym.

The opposite also happens too. There are days I get into the weight room, just raring to go, feeling like a forklift, but then ... I can barely bench what was easy last year.

Bottom line? Expectations aren't very accurate. Your worst days can actually be your best days, and vice versa. So maybe the lesson here is just to ignore how you're feeling and just see how you perform. This is not to say you should try to squat when your knee is aching in a strange way and it feels like your ACL is about to pop. Or to try getting 10,000 words in when you've got a 103 degree fever. This is only to say, don't let your expectations dictate what actually happens, because they're often way, way off.

Anyway, here's today's update:

September 20th

Pre-Production: 30 min
Drafting: 5.5 hours
Daily Word Count: 7,337
Total Word Count: 15,017

What slowed me down? Nothing seemed to slow me down today. Though my productivity after the kids went to bed was miniscule compared to earlier in the day. That comes as no shock. But like I said above, I went into today with low expectations and ended up killing it. I'm tempted to lower my expectations tomorrow and see what happens, but I also want to be careful there. I do have a word count I want to hit and I fear if I create a habit of lowering expectations, then subconsciously I'll start telling myself it's alright if I slack off. We shall see.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Heroic Fantasy Novel Update

As mentioned in yesterday's blog, I'm challenging myself to write AND edit a 90k - 100k historical fantasy novel in 21 days. Yes, this is unreasonable. But to paraphrase George Bernard Shaw, only unreasonable people can change the world.

September 18th

  • Outline for 3 hours
  • Pre-Production for 2 hours
  • What slowed me down today? Editing two other books. No cure for that, shit's gotta get done. Hopefully this little experiment proves to me you can write and then edit what you wrote right away, so in the future there is no gap between the two processes.
September 19th
  • Pre-Production for 3 hours
  • Drafting for 5 hours
  • Daily Word Count: 7,680 words
  • Total Word Count: 7,680 words
  • What slowed me down today? World-building. What does the Abbey look like? What does the refectory inside the Abbey look like? What would they eat for dinner? What does the Mark of the Bull look like? Should it be a coin or should it be something else? Descriptions bog me down. What should the training room look like? How else could I describe the stone floor, other than "cold" and "hard"? The answers to these questions aren't life-and-death but they still need to be provided to the reader. Our characters can't go from "a room" to "another room." They also wear clothes. CLOTHES! Do the warrior-monks residing in the Abbey of Bronze wear habits? Or would they wear armor all the time?
  • How can I solve this problem? More pre-production next time. I will look ahead in my outline and try to better anticipate these issues. But I feel like these things will always come up. The goal is just to reduce the amount of them.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Can a book be written AND edited in 21 days?

I've written some books of my books in less than 21 days, then followed the conventional wisdom about setting them aside for a few months to gain some objectivity and distance from the material before editing.

And here's what happens when I do that--

That novel that took me only a couple weeks to write has now sat on its ass for months and the editing ends up taking foreverrrrrrrr .............. the book I just released, The Dead Girl, was written in March and now here we are, in the middle of September. Did sitting on the story for that long make it significantly better?

As the writer, I'm probably not in the best position to determine that but a big part of me has a sneaking suspicion that the answer is no. Or at least, the book isn't significantly better. Instead I could have finished writing The Dead Girl, then gone right back to page 1 to start editing. All those glaring typos, unconscious echoing (I've used the word "just" 15x on this page alone), word choice, continuity errors, etc, would probably have jumped off the page just as obviously.

What I have found is that waiting that long to edit a story TAKES ME OUT OF THE STORY. Yes, I have some distance but too much distance isn't a great thing. When I wait a couple months to edit, I'll get to, say, page 30 and then larger question pops up. It goes something like this with my internal monologue in italics:

There's a plot thread I wanted to work out here, but I don't remember if THIS and THAT happened later. Or did I decide NOT to do this and instead DID THAT OTHER THING?

Or did SOANDSO meet up and SAY THIS?

But wait, I did THIS THING OVER SOMEWHERE I think, and so do I really need THIS and THAT here?

When questions like this pop up and I don't know the answer right away, I'm no longer in editing mode. Now I'm in search mode and also in danger of entering the dreaded rewrite mode. I get bogged down and the editing grinds to a halt. If there are significant rewrites, then I feel like I need to set the rewrites aside for a period of time to gain distance and ... you get the idea.

I suspect these same larger questions would still arise if I edited right away. But I also think they'd be easier to answer:

Wait, didn't I want to ... oh no, that's right I did X, Y, and Z later in the book. Good to go.

Oh yeah, I wanted to change this. That means I have to tweak THIS, THAT, and THE OTHER THING OVER HERE. Okay, I can do that quickly.

I can't help but feel the process would become lightning quick if I started editing right away BECAUSE I'M STILL IN THE STORY. I'm much more likely to remember all the ins and outs, creative choices I made, and also much more likely to remember where these things are.

This is just a theory of course, a theory that flies in the face of conventional wisdom. But so-called conventional wisdom has been wrong before, and it will be wrong again, and I'm going to test my hypothesis on the heroic fantasy novel I'm working on right now.

I think I'll be doing a series of videos on this to chart my progress. Other authors have done 21 day challenges before so I can hardly claim to be the first, but I thought it might be helpful to share my process and discuss the things that slow me down with the goal of bringing these problems into the forefront of my consciousness so I can solve them. I'm not doing this because I think my writing process is more interesting than anybody else's. I'm doing this because I want to show other authors it's possible to write AND edit a book quickly, much more quickly than is commonly thought possible.

I outlined the story yesterday over the course of three hours, using the famous Disney memo about the Hero's Journey as a reference, and my goal is to write a 90k fantasy novel in two weeks and then turn right around and edit it in one week. I think this is doable. And the best part?

So what if I fail?

If it takes me 28 days as opposed to 21, I'VE STILL WRITTEN AND EDITED A FULL LENGTH NOVEL IN A MONTH.

If that's failure, I'll take failure every time.

Tomorrow I'll talk about some of the things I did to speed up the writing process before I got started. Maybe a video too. We shall see. I have a word count to hit ;-)

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Insane 2017 Publishing Experiment Has Already Begun

Hey readers - Been a while since my last post, but I have a good excuse: I've spent a good chunk of my time actually writing. And you know what happened when I did that? I actually wrote some books.

Many, in fact.

As anybody who has tried to indie publish knows, it's getting more and more difficult to gain visibility on Amazon. To put that in laymen's terms, I simply mean it's getting harder to be noticed by readers.

Big name authors, i.e. those hard-working and fortunate enough to have gained a significant following already, are somewhat immune to this increasing difficulty as they have large readerships who are willing to purchase or borrow just about anything they put out. Think Stephen King and Lee Child. They can release a book per year and be just fine. Other big-time indie authors can do the same thing and still see significant sales.

As for the rest (most) of us ... well that just doesn't work. If you're lucky enough to score a breakout, record-smashing bestseller, then you can join the ranks of the elite on Mount Olympus and publish fairly infrequently. The chances of this happening to any author are about the same as winning the lottery.

It seems that Amazon's latest version of algorithms (how it directs readers to books, and how the website influences a reader's purchasing decisions) strongly favors new releases. This incentivizes writers, especially those looking to break through to the next level, to put out quality books as quickly as possible.

So that's my game plan for the rest of 2017. Write, edit, release, repeat. As quickly as possible. So that's why:

The latest Eddie McCloskey novel launched August 29th.

And one week later, the final comedic mystery, Not Safe for Work, in my Close of Business series was available too!

And in the next day or two, the first in my new amateur sleuth series will drop. Here's the cover:

The plan is to release several more novels this year and sprinkle short stories in between book launches. The goal is to utilize Amazon's algorithms to my advantage and increase my visibility. Fingers crossed this works, and I'll strive to send out periodic updates about my progress.